Artificial Sodium Channels for Enhanced Osmotic Energy Harvesting

Q Li and K Zhou and B Zhu and XL Liu and JC Lao and J Gao and L Jiang, JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 145, 28038-28048 (2023).

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c08902

Inspired by the ion channels of electric eels, we can use biomimetic nanofluidic materials to harvest the osmotic power released by mixing seawater and river water. While biological ion channels have both cation/anion and inter-cation selectivity, previous nanofluidic materials neglected the latter. As a result, NaCl solutions were generally used to simulate river water, ignoring the fact that the dominating cation in river water is typically Ca2+. In this work, we show that the different ionic compositions of seawater and river water can be exploited to improve osmotic power density by employing biomimetic sodium selective materials. Inspired by a range of properties of biological sodium channels, we constructed artificial sodium channels with zeolitic imidazolate framework-65 crystals, which selectively transport Na+ but almost completely block Ca2+. Resultantly, the effective concentration gradient of seawater/river water is dramatically increased by preventing the major cations in the river water from participating in the ion diffusion. As a result, the osmotic power density can be increased by more than 1 order of magnitude. These results should open new avenues to develop high-performance osmotic generators and may advance other applications based on biomimetic ion channels such as neuromorphic information processing.

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