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Metal-coordinated sub-10 nm membranes for water purification

Ultrathin membranes with potentially high permeability are urgently demanded in water purification. However, their facile, controllable fabrication remains a grand challenge. Herein, we demonstrate a metal-coordinated approach towards defect-free and robust membranes with sub-10 nm thickness. Phytic acid, a natural strong electron donor, is assembled with metal ion-based electron acceptors to fabricate metal-organophosphate membranes (MOPMs) in aqueous solution. Metal ions with higher binding energy or ionization potential such as Fe3+ and Zr4+ can generate defect-free structure while MOPM-Fe3+ with superhydrophilicity is preferred. The membrane thickness is minimized to 8 nm by varying the ligand concentration and the pore structure of MOPM-Fe3+ is regulated by varying the Fe3+ content. The membrane with optimized MOPM-Fe3+ composition exhibits prominent water permeance (109.8 L m−2 h−1 bar−1) with dye rejections above 95% and superior stability. This strong-coordination assembly may enlighten the development of ultrathin high-performance membranes.

Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 4160 (2019)

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