Get access

Water Transport and Purification in Nanochannels Controlled by Asymmetric Wettability



Biomimetic asymmetric nanochannels have recently attracted increasing attention from researchers, especially in the aspect of the asymmetric wettability (a hydrophilic–hydrophobic system), which can be utilized to control the wetting behavior of aqueous media and to offer a means for guiding water motion. By using molecular dynamics simulations, a design for a potentially efficient water filter is presented based on (n, n) single-walled carbon nanotubes, where n = 6, 8, 10 and 12, asymmetrically modified with hydrophilic groups (carboxyl, -COOH) at one tip and hydrophobic groups (trifluoromethyl, -CF3) at the other. The reduced water density on the hydrophobic sides of the functionalized nanotubes are observed in both pure water and aqueous electrolyte solution, except for the functionalized (6, 6) tube, due to the change of dipole orientation of the single-file water wire within it. The functionalized (8, 8) tube can significantly maintain the low water density on the hydrophobic side. Both (6, 6) and (8, 8) tubes have relatively high energy barriers at their tips for ion permeation, which can be obtained by calculating the potential of mean force. Such tip functionalization of a nanotube therefore suggests the great possibilities of water transport and filtration, dominated by asymmetric wettability. The functionalized (8, 8) tube could act as a nanofluidic channel for water purification, not only for ion exclusion but also as a stable water column structure.