Big Range of Behaviors For Tiny Graphene Pores

Like biological channels, graphene pores are selective for certain types of ions.

Author: Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office

The surface of a single cell contains hundreds of tiny pores, or ion channels, each of which is a portal for specific ions. Ion channels are typically about 1 nanometer wide; by maintaining the right balance of ions, they keep cells healthy and stable. Now researchers at MIT have created tiny pores in single sheets of graphene that have an array of preferences and characteristics similar to those of ion channels in living cells. Each graphene pore is less than 2 nanometers wide, making them among the smallest pores through which scientists have ever studied ion flow. Each is also uniquely selective, preferring to transport certain ions over others through the graphene layer.

“What we see is that there is a lot of diversity in the transport properties of these pores, which means there is a lot of potential to tailor these pores to different applications or selectivities,” says Rohit Karnik, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.

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