Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Thinnest feasible membrane produced

Artist’s rendering of the two-layered graphene membrane (grey honeycomb structure) with molecules (blue) being able – as a function of their size – to pass the pores.Illustration: Ben Newton / ETH Zurich
Artist’s rendering of the two-layered graphene membrane (grey honeycomb structure) with molecules (blue) being able – as a function of their size – to pass the pores.

Illustration: Ben Newton / ETH Zurich

Abstract:
Researchers have produced a stable porous membrane that is thinner than a nanometre. This is a 100,000 times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. The membrane consists of two layers of the much exalted "super material" graphene, a two-dimensional film made of carbon atoms, on which the team of researchers, led by Professor Hyung Gyu Park at the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering at ETH Zurich, etched tiny pores of a precisely defined size.

Thinnest feasible membrane produced

Zurich, Switzerland | Posted on April 17th, 2014

The membrane can thus permeate tiny molecules. Larger molecules or particles, on the other hand, can pass only slowly or not at all. "With a thickness of just two carbon atoms, this is the thinnest porous membrane that is technologically possible to make," says PhD student Jakob Buchheim, one of the two lead authors of the study, which was conducted by ETH-Zurich researchers in collaboration with scientists from Empa and a research laboratory of LG Electronics. The study has just been published in journal Science.

The ultra-thin graphene membrane may one day be used for a range of different purposes, including waterproof clothing. "Our membrane is not only very light and flexible, but it is also a thousand fold more breathable than Goretex," says Kemal Celebi, a postdoc in Park's laboratory and also one of the lead authors of the study. The membrane could also potentially be used to separate gaseous mixtures into their constituent parts or to filter impurities from fluids. The researchers were able to demonstrate for the first time that graphene membranes could be suitable for water filtration. The researchers also see a potential use for the membrane in devices used for the accurate measurement of gas and fluid flow rates that are crucial to unveiling the physics around mass transfer at nanoscales and separation of chemical mixtures.

Breakthrough in nanofabrication

The researchers not only succeeded in producing the starting material, a double-layer graphene film with a high level of purity, but they also mastered a technique called focused ion beam milling to etch pores into the graphene film. In this process, which is also used in the production of semiconductors, a beam of helium or gallium ions is controlled with a high level of precision in order to etch away material. The researchers were able to etch pores of a specified number and size into the graphene with unprecedented precision. This process, which could easily take days to complete, took only a few hours in the current work. "This is a breakthrough that enables the nanofabrication of the porous graphene membranes," explains Ivan Shorubalko, a scientist at Empa that also contributed to the study.

In order to achieve this level of precision, the researchers had to work with double-layer graphene. "It wouldn't have been possible for this method to create such a membrane with only one layer because graphene in practice isn't perfect," says Park. The material can exhibit certain irregularities in the honeycomb structure of the carbon atoms. Now and again, individual atoms are missing from the structure, which not only impairs the stability of the material but also makes it impossible to etch a high-precision pore onto such a defect. The researchers solved this problem by laying two graphene layers on top of each other. The probability of two defects settling directly above one another is extremely low, explains Park.

Fastest possible filtration

A key advantage of the tiny dimensions is that the thinner a membrane, the lower its permeation resistance. The lower the resistance, the higher the energy-efficiency of the filtration process. "With such atomically thin membranes we can reach maximal permeation for a membrane of a given pore size and we believe that they allow the fastest feasible rate of permeation," says Celebi. However, before these applications are ready for use on an industrial scale or for the production of functional waterproof clothing, the manufacturing process needs to be further developed. To investigate the fundamental science, the researchers worked with tiny pieces of membrane with a surface area of less than one hundredth of a square millimetre. Objectives from now on will be to produce larger membrane surfaces and impose various filtering mechanisms.

####

About ETH Zurich
ETH Zurich is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. It is well-known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for implementing its results directly into practice.

Founded in 1855, ETH Zurich today has more than 18,000 students from over 110 countries, including 3,900 doctoral students. To researchers, it offers an inspiring working environment, to students, a comprehensive education.

Twenty-one Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zurich, underlining the excellent reputation of the university.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Hyung Gyu Park

41-446-329-460

Copyright © ETH Zurich

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

Literature reference

Related News Press

News and information

Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods March 25th, 2017

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Artificial photosynthesis steps into the light: Rice University lab turns transition metals into practical catalyst for solar, other applications March 23rd, 2017

Scientists discover new 'boat' form of promising semiconductor: GeSe Uncommon form attenuates semiconductor's band gap size March 23rd, 2017

Chemistry

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Optical fingerprint can reveal pollutants in the air: Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have proposed a new, sophisticated method of detecting molecules with sensors based on ultra-thin nanomaterials March 15th, 2017

Graphene/ Graphite

Intertronics introduce new nanoparticle deagglomeration technology March 15th, 2017

Space energy technology restored to make power stations more efficient: Scientists use graphene to reinvent abandoned heat energy converter technology March 7th, 2017

Graphene sheets capture cells efficiently: New method could enable pinpoint diagnostics on individual blood cells March 3rd, 2017

Physics

Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms: In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport February 20th, 2017

Research reveals novel quantum state in strange insulating materials February 14th, 2017

Sorting machine for atoms:Researchers at the University of Bonn clear a further hurdle on the path to creating quantum computers February 10th, 2017

The shape of melting in two dimensions: University of Michigan team uses Titan to explore fundamental phase transitions February 2nd, 2017

Discoveries

Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods March 25th, 2017

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Artificial photosynthesis steps into the light: Rice University lab turns transition metals into practical catalyst for solar, other applications March 23rd, 2017

Materials/Metamaterials

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Rice U. refines filters for greener natural gas: New study defines best materials for carbon capture, methane selectivity March 23rd, 2017

Artificial photosynthesis steps into the light: Rice University lab turns transition metals into practical catalyst for solar, other applications March 23rd, 2017

Announcements

Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods March 25th, 2017

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Artificial photosynthesis steps into the light: Rice University lab turns transition metals into practical catalyst for solar, other applications March 23rd, 2017

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Rice U. refines filters for greener natural gas: New study defines best materials for carbon capture, methane selectivity March 23rd, 2017

Artificial photosynthesis steps into the light: Rice University lab turns transition metals into practical catalyst for solar, other applications March 23rd, 2017

Water

Rare-earths become water-repellent only as they age March 22nd, 2017

Nano-level lubricant tuning improves material for electronic devices and surface coatings February 11th, 2017

Tough aqua material for water purification: Decontamination of water with a robust and sustainable membrane assembled from 2 synergistically working components January 24th, 2017

Scientists have discovered a new state of matter for water January 2nd, 2017

Textiles/Clothing

'Back to the Future' inspires solar nanotech-powered clothing November 15th, 2016

Engineers develop new magnetic ink to print self-healing devices that heal in record time November 7th, 2016

Stretchy supercapacitors power wearable electronics August 25th, 2016

Weird, water-oozing material could help quench thirst: Nanorods' behavior first theorized 20 years ago, but not seen until now June 13th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project