Ultimate Permeation Across Atomically Thin Porous Graphene

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Science  18 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6181, pp. 289-292
DOI: 10.1126/science.1249097

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Thin and Selective Outpourings

When using a membrane to separate materials, the efficiency of the separation is limited by how fast the gas or liquid passes through the membrane and by how selective it is. Thinner membranes usually allow for faster flow rates but are usually less selective. Attempting to maintain selectivity, Celebi et al. (p. 289) developed a sophisticated way to drill holes of controlled diameter in a graphene sheet about two layers thick. For such a thin membrane, the primary barriers to separation come from entrance and exit from the holes and not from the motion through the membrane.


A two-dimensional (2D) porous layer can make an ideal membrane for separation of chemical mixtures because its infinitesimal thickness promises ultimate permeation. Graphene—with great mechanical strength, chemical stability, and inherent impermeability—offers a unique 2D system with which to realize this membrane and study the mass transport, if perforated precisely. We report highly efficient mass transfer across physically perforated double-layer graphene, having up to a few million pores with narrowly distributed diameters between less than 10 nanometers and 1 micrometer. The measured transport rates are in agreement with predictions of 2D transport theories. Attributed to its atomic thicknesses, these porous graphene membranes show permeances of gas, liquid, and water vapor far in excess of those shown by finite-thickness membranes, highlighting the ultimate permeation these 2D membranes can provide.

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