Water transport inside carbon nanotubes mediated by phonon-induced oscillating friction

Ming Ma, François Grey, Luming Shen, Michael Urbakh, Shuai Wu, Jefferson Zhe Liu, Yilun Liu, Quanshui Zheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The emergence of the field of nanofluidics in the last decade has led to the development of important applications including water desalination, ultrafiltration and osmotic energy conversion. Most applications make use of carbon nanotubes, boron nitride nanotubes, graphene and graphene oxide. In particular, understanding water transport in carbon nanotubes is key for designing ultrafiltration devices and energy-efficient water filters. However, although theoretical studies based on molecular dynamics simulations have revealed many mechanistic features of water transport at the molecular level, further advances in this direction are limited by the fact that the lowest flow velocities accessible by simulations are orders of magnitude higher than those measured experimentally. Here, we extend molecular dynamics studies of water transport through carbon nanotubes to flow velocities comparable with experimental ones using massive crowd-sourced computing power. We observe previously undetected oscillations in the friction force between water and carbon nanotubes and show that these oscillations result from the coupling between confined water molecules and the longitudinal phonon modes of the nanotube. This coupling can enhance the diffusion of confined water by more than 300%. Our results may serve as a theoretical framework for the design of new devices for more efficient water filtration and osmotic energy conversion devices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-695
Number of pages4
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 6 Aug 2015


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