Ultrafast, stable ionic and molecular sieving through functionalized boron nitride membranes

Cheng Chen, Si Qin, Dan Liu*, Jiemin Wang, Guoliang Yang, Yuyu Su, Liangzhu Zhang, Wei Cao, Ming Ma, Yijun Qian, Yuchen Liu, Jefferson Zhe Liu, Weiwei Lei

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Porous membranes play an important role in the separation technologies such as gas purification, solute nanofiltration, and desalination. An ideal membrane should be thin to maximize permeation speed, have optimum pore sizes to maximize selectivity, and be stable in various harsh conditions. Here, we show that the nanometer-thick membrane prepared by means of filtration of functionalized boron nitride (FBN) water suspensions can block solutes with hydrated radii larger than 4.3 Å in water. The FBN membranes with abundant nanochannels reduce the path length of ions. As molecular sieves, the FBN membrane can permeate small ions at an ultrahigh rate - a 25-fold enhancement compared with that of its theoretical diffusion rate and much higher than the graphene oxide membrane. Importantly, the FBN membrane exhibits excellent permeability even when it is immersed in acidic, alkaline, and basic salts solutions because of its intrinsic chemical stability. The molecular dynamics simulations further confirmed that the nanocapillaries formed within the FBN membrane in the hydrated state were responsible for high permeation performance. The simple vacuum filtration fabricated FBN membrane with angstrom-sized channels and ultrafast permeation of ions promises great potential applications in the areas of barrier separation and water purification.

Original languageEnglish
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • angstrom-sized channels
  • functionalized boron nitride
  • membrane
  • molecular dynamics (MD) simulations
  • molecular sieving


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