Fluid breakup in carbon nanotubes: An explanation of ultrafast ion transport

Xiang Gao, Tianshou Zhao, Zhigang Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ultrafast ion transport in carbon nanotubes (CNTs) has been experimentally observed, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. In this work, we investigate ion transport in CNTs through molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. It is found that the flow in CNTs undergoes a transition from the passage of a continuous liquid chain to the transport of isolated ion-water clusters as the CNT length or the external electric filed strength is increased. The breakup of the liquid chain in CNTs greatly reduces the resistance caused by the hydrogen bonds of water and significantly enhances the ionic mobility, which explains the two-order-magnitude enhancement of ionic conductance in CNTs reported in the literature. A theoretical criterion for fluid breakup is proposed, which agrees well with MD results. The fluid breakup phenomenon provides new insights into enhancing ion transport in nanoconfinements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number092003
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


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