Polyamide membranes with nanoscale Turing structures for water purification

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Science  04 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6388, pp. 518-521
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar6308

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Turing structures at the nanoscale

Turing structures arise when imbalances in diffusion rates make a stable steady-state system sensitive to small heterogeneous perturbations. For example, Turing patterns occur in chemical reactions when a fast-moving inhibitor controls the motion of a slower-moving activator. Tan et al. grew polyamide membranes by using interfacial polymerization, where the reactions occur at the interface between oil and water layers. The addition of polyvinyl alcohol to the aqueous phase reduced the diffusion of the monomer. This process generates membranes with more bumps, voids, and islands, which prove to be better for water desalination.

Science, this issue p. 518


The emergence of Turing structures is of fundamental importance, and designing these structures and developing their applications have practical effects in chemistry and biology. We use a facile route based on interfacial polymerization to generate Turing-type polyamide membranes for water purification. Manipulation of shapes by control of reaction conditions enabled the creation of membranes with bubble or tube structures. These membranes exhibit excellent water-salt separation performance that surpasses the upper-bound line of traditional desalination membranes. Furthermore, we show the existence of high water permeability sites in the Turing structures, where water transport through the membranes is enhanced.

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