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  1. Membrane technologies that enable the efficient purification of impaired water sources are needed to address growing water scarcity. However, state-of-the-art engineered membranes are constrained by a universal, deleterious trade-off where membranes with high water permeability lack selectivity. Current membranes also poorly remove low–molecular weight neutral solutes and are vulnerable to degradation from oxidants used in water treatment. We report a water desalination technology that uses applied pressure to drive vapor transport through membranes with an entrapped air layer. Since separation occurs due to a gas-liquid phase change, near-complete rejection of dissolved solutes including sodium chloride, boron, urea, andN-nitrosodimethylamine is observed. Membranes fabricated with sub-200-nm-thick air layers showed water permeabilities that exceed those of commercial membranes without sacrificing salt rejection. We also find the air-trapping membranes tolerate exposure to chlorine and ozone oxidants. The results advance our understanding of evaporation behavior and facilitate high-throughput ultraselective separations.

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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 8, 2024