Supported graphene-based membranes
Porous graphene sheets have excellent filtration capabilities and are able to block most ions, but their fragility limits their scale-up beyond laboratory demonstrations. Yang et al. created a nanoporous graphene membrane reinforced by a network of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) to provide mechanical stability (see the Perspective by Mi). The SWNT network also stopped the propagation of cracks in the graphene, effectively localizing the damage to a small area defined by a cell in the carbon nanotube mesh. The membranes showed high water flux rates as well as a high rejection rate for most ions.
Nanoporous two-dimensional materials are attractive for ionic and molecular nanofiltration but limited by insufficient mechanical strength over large areas. We report a large-area graphene-nanomesh/single-walled carbon nanotube (GNM/SWNT) hybrid membrane with excellent mechanical strength while fully capturing the merit of atomically thin membranes. The monolayer GNM features high-density, subnanometer pores for efficient transport of water molecules while blocking solute ions or molecules to enable size-selective separation. The SWNT network physically separates the GNM into microsized islands and acts as the microscopic framework to support the GNM, thus ensuring the structural integrity of the atomically thin GNM. The resulting GNM/SWNT membranes show high water permeance and a high rejection ratio for salt ions or organic molecules, and they retain stable separation performance in tubular modules.