Pathways and Challenges for Biomimetic Desalination Membranes with Sub-Nanometer Channels – The Future of Desalination?


The authors acknowledge the support received from the National Science Foundation through the Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (EEC1449500) and via Grant CBET 1437630. The authors also acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under grant no. DGE-1752134, awarded to C.J.P. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

ABSTRACT

Transmembrane protein channels, including ion channels and aquaporins that are responsible for fast and selective transport of water, have inspired membrane scientists to exploit and mimic their performance in membrane technologies. These biomimetic membranes comprise discrete nanochannels aligned within amphiphilic matrices on a robust support. While biological components have been used directly, extensive work has also been conducted to produce stable synthetic mimics of protein channels and lipid bilayers.

However, the experimental performance of biomimetic membranes remains far below that of biological membranes. In this review, we critically assess the status and potential of biomimetic desalination membranes. We first review channel chemistries and their transport behavior, identifying key characteristics to optimize water permeability and salt rejection.

We compare various channel types within an industrial context, considering transport performance, processability, and stability. Through a re-examination of previous vesicular stopped-flow studies, we demonstrate that incorrect permeability equations result in an overestimation of the water permeability of nanochannels. We find in particular that the most optimized aquaporin-bearing bilayer had a pure water permeability of 2.1 L m–2 h–1 bar–1, which is comparable to that of current state-of-the-art polymeric desalination membranes.

Through a quantitative assessment of biomimetic membrane formats, we analytically show that formats incorporating intact vesicles offer minimal benefit, whereas planar biomimetic selective layers could allow for dramatically improved salt rejections. We then show that the persistence of nanoscale defects explains observed subpar performance. We conclude with a discussion on optimal strategies for minimizing these defects, which could enable breakthrough performance.

Biomimetic Desalination Membranes

As stressors like population growth, industrialization, and climate change threaten to deplete and contaminate our freshwater resources, larger bodies of saline water could provide a vast supply of water for drinking, agricultural, and industrial use.(1) However, desalination of these waters requires more energy and financial resources than traditional freshwater purification methods.(2) Currently, the state-of-the-art technology for desalination is reverse osmosis (RO) using thin-film-composite (TFC) polyamide membranes.(3,4) Fully aromatic TFC-RO membranes are readily produced at industrial scale through interfacial polymerization, whereby a rapid reaction occurs at the interface of immiscible organic and aqueous phases to form a highly cross-linked polyamide selective layer on a porous support(5) (Figure 1). With the advent of the TFC-RO membrane and energy recovery devices, seawater desalination energy requirements for the RO stage have drastically reduced from ∼15 kWh m–3 using the original cellulose acetate membranes of the 1970s down to only ∼2 kWh m–3, only ∼25% above the practical minimum energy.(2)

Figure 1. Transition in desalination research from focusing on dense polymers that reject salt by a solution-diffusion mechanism to considering sub-nanometer channels capable of molecularly sieving ions. In the solution-diffusion panel (left), common reactants for TFC-RO membranes are represented, which rapidly react at an organic–aqueous interface during interfacial polymerization to form a cross-linked, fully aromatic polyamide selective layer with characteristic ridge-valley morphology. Salt rejection determined by a solution-diffusion mechanism results from the higher partitioning and/or diffusion rates of water over ions. In the ion sieving panel (right), common molecular sieves that have been considered for desalination are shown, with ideal water pathways illustrated. In pores similar in size to water, single-file water transport is induced. Nanotubes and nanochannels can be synthetic (e.g., carbon nanotubes) or biological (e.g., aquaporins). To produce nanoporous sheets, sub-nanometer pores where only a few atoms are vacant have been etched in single-layer graphene using chemical oxidation, electron beam irradiation, doping, and ion bombardment.(12) For 2D laminates, the water pathway is through interlayer spaces between sheets. Studies so far have primarily considered graphene oxide nanosheets for 2D laminates.(13,14) The molecular sieving mechanism for ion rejection is by size exclusion, where highly uniform pores exclude larger solutes and ideally transport only molecules similar in size to water.

Reduced Operational Costs, Improved Reliability and Efficiency and Enhanced Product Water Quality

Despite the substantial reduction in energy consumption and overall cost, seawater RO still has room for improvement. While current water permeabilities enable near-optimal performance, increased water-solute selectivity would allow for reduced operational costs, improved reliability and efficiency, and enhanced product water quality.(4) For example, TFC-RO membranes inadequately retain chloride and some small neutral solutes, such as boron in seawater desalination and trace organic contaminants in wastewater reuse, necessitating extra purification steps which increase the cost of desalination.(4)Transport through the polyamide layer is well described by the solution-diffusion model, in which permeants (i.e., water and solutes) partition into the dense polyamide layer and diffuse through it (Figure 1).(6) 

The resultant permselectivity of the membrane is attributed to differences in abilities and rates of species to dissolve into and diffuse through the polyamide membrane material.(7) Although intrinsic water permeability can far exceed salt permeability during solution diffusion, as it does for polyamide, historical data suggest that it will be difficult to significantly advance performance with polymeric systems. Commercial desalination and water purification membranes typically exhibit a permeability–selectivity trade-off, similar to the Robeson plot for polymeric gas separations.(8−11) 

Furthermore, despite many decades of extensive research, no polymeric material has yet surpassed the desalination performance (i.e., water permeability, water-salt selectivity, and cost-effectiveness) of fully aromatic polyamide.

To overcome the limitations of the solution-diffusion-based polyamide membranes, research focus has shifted toward the development of desalination membranes that remove solutes via molecular sieving. In this mechanism of ion rejection, highly uniform, rigid pores that are smaller than the diameter of hydrated salt ions transport water and nearly completely reject ions by size exclusion (Figure 1). Recent formats of molecular sieves considered for desalination include nanotubes and nanochannels, two-dimensional (2D) laminates, and nanoporous sheets (Figure 1).(14) 

However, these top-down efforts have failed so far to achieve adequate salt rejection due to the persistence of defects coupled with the daunting challenges of tuning interlayer spacing or pore size.(12,13,15) 

Biomimetic membranes, or composites comprising an amphiphilic matrix with discrete, aligned nanochannels on a robust support, may provide a platform for industrial-scale molecular sieves that overcome the limitations of solution-diffusion-based polyamide membranes.

After over 3.5 billion years of evolution,(16,17) the cell membranes of modern organisms can perform an array of highly complicated functions, which rely on a system of complex transmembrane proteins aligned within the amphiphilic lipid bilayer. In this system, water and only select ions pass through channel pores and pumps, depending on the energy and nutrient needs of the cell.(18,19) In pioneering work, Preston et al. determined that an integral membrane protein formed a biological channel that selectively transports water in and out of many types of cells. This protein was the CHannel-forming Integral Protein of 28 kDa (CHIP28),(20,21) later called the aquaporin. For these discoveries, Peter Agre and Roderick MacKinnon shared the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Through additional biophysical studies, ion channels also showed impressive selectivity, inspiring the design of synthetic ion channels.(22−25) 

Eventually, researchers realized the potential implications of these channels for industrial-scale water purification, especially aquaporin in the use of desalination, and attempted to produce biomimetic membranes, or materials that mimic the structure and performance of biological membranes.(26−35) 

While much of the work has focused on water-solute separations, the biomimetic membrane format also presents opportunities to develop membranes with tunable selectivity based on a chosen channel type.However, translating biological mechanisms into industrial-scale technology necessitates scale-up by orders of magnitude—from the microscopic size of a cell membrane to tens of square meters.(36) For industrial relevance, the synthesis of a biomimetic membrane would need to be cost-effective and simple. Simultaneously, such a membrane would need to be mechanically stable under RO pressures exceeding 70 bar and chemically stable during repeated membrane cleaning and usage.(37) Notably, even at the lab scale, sufficiently high-salt rejection has not yet been achieved for biomimetic desalination membranes after over a decade of research.(37,38) 

Therefore, channels, selective layer formats, synthesis strategies, and support layer types must be carefully considered to attain the capabilities of this technology. While certain aspects of biomimetic desalination membranes have been reviewed recently,(37−42) a critical analysis of their performance and their potential application in water-treatment processes remains necessary.In this critical review, we examine efforts toward biomimetic desalination membranes for water purification in order to identify the best strategies to realize their full potential for both desalination and solute–solute selectivity. We first examine molecular transport, contrasting solution-diffusion with molecular sieving and assessing transport through the mixed matrix of biomimetic selective layers. We next identify the key characteristics of the aquaporin that explain its ultraselectivity and fast water transport, comparing this biological channel to several synthetic channels and placing each in industrial context. Using corrected analysis of reported permeability measurements, we then show that the water permeabilities of many channels have been overestimated. Subsequently, we predict best-case-scenario outcomes for common biomimetic formats, including membranes with intact vesicles and membranes with planar biomimetic layers. For the more promising planar format, the biggest challenge is the presence of nanoscale defects. Through mathematical models, we estimate the defect density for several reported biomimetic membranes. We then discuss synthesis pathways that could limit both the presence of defects and the effect of defects on transport performance.

We conclude with a discussion on the practicality of biomimetic desalination membranes and how to best exploit the strengths of discrete nanochannels as molecular sieves in other applications beyond desalination.

Figure 2. Channel types for biomimetic membranes, including biological as well as bioinspired and bioderived. (a) Single channel water permeability versus pore interior diameter. The pore interior diameter here is defined as the inner diameter of the most constricted region. For PAH[4], the pore diameter shown refers to the average width of dynamic voids that formed in channel clusters.

Channel permeabilities from stopped-flow data and simulations were adjusted to 25 °C and corrected for any previous errors in permeability calculation (see SI, Section S1 for details). (b) (left) Overhead view of AqpZ tetramer and (right) side view of single AqpZ channel with characteristic hourglass shape. (c) GramA dimer as it exists in biological and vesicular environments. In organic solvents, the monomers can intertwine to form a parallel or antiparallel helix. AqpZ and GramA diagrams were drawn using PyMOL(69) with protein sequences from the Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics Protein Data Bank (RCSB-PDB, https://www.rcsb.org/), PDB-ID codes 1RC2(70) and 1NRM.(71) (d) Dependence of water diffusivity through pores on the number of interior hydrogen-bond points.

Data extracted from ref (56). (e) Cyclic peptide nanotubes. (left) Hydrogen-bonding pattern of pore-forming, stacked cyclic peptides. A polyglycine structure is shown for simplicity; side residues would typically be present. (right) Modified cyclic peptide with interior peptide-mimicking functional groups. The analogous unmodified cyclic peptide is radially symmetrical with a fourth primary amine side chain (cyclo[(d-Ala-Lys)4]).(72) (f) Single-walled carbon nanotube porins (wide and narrow) with armchair pattern. Number of carbons approximate those of wCNTP and nCNTP. (g) (left) PAP[5] and (right) PAH[4] nanochannels with peptide appendages that form interarm hydrogen bonds. (h) (left) Aquafoldamer subunits with “sticky” ends. Differences in end groups that comprise Aqf1 and Aqf2 subunits are illustrated. (right) Weak hydrogen-bonding pattern of pore-forming, stacked aquafoldamers. Six subunits are needed to cross a DOPC membrane. (i) Pure water permeability versus total channel areal coverage in a DOPC bilayer. Single channel permeabilities from (a) were divided by channel cross-sectional area and converted into channel water permeability (A) coefficients using eq 3. Overall biomimetic layer A coefficients were calculated for various densities of channels within a DOPC bilayer using eq 7. DOPC bilayer hydraulic permeability was taken as 0.15 L m–2 h–1 bar–1.(73) The shaded region indicates the water permeability of current commercial TFC-RO membranes, an adequate range for desalination performance. Permeabilities are listed in Table S1.

** Read the Complete Paper and Conclusions from AZ Nano by Following the Link Below

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.0c05753#

Authors

  • Cassandra J. Porter: Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 
  • Jay R. Werber: Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut and Department of Chemistry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 
  • Mingjiang Zhong: Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 
  • Corey J. Wilson: School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, United States
  • Menachem Elimelech: Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 

“Great Things from Small Things” Top 50 Nanotech Blog – Our Top Posts This Week


Happy Holiday (Labor Day) Weekend Everyone! Here are our Top Posts from this past week … Just in case you missed them! We hope all of you are well and safe and continuing to ‘get back to normal’ as the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 continues to restrain all of us in one way or another.

Thankfully however, COVID-19 has NOT restricted the Forward Advance of Innovation and Technology Solutions from the small worlds of Nanotechnology – “Great Things from Small Things” – Read and Enjoy and wonderful Holiday Weekend!Team GNT

Carbon Nanotube Second Skin Protects First Responders and Warfighters against Chem, Bio Agents – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The same materials (adsorbents or barrier layers) that provide protection in current garments also detrimentally inhibit breathability.

Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of chemical weapons in the Syria conflict have provided a stark reminder of the plethora of chemical and biological threats that soldiers, medical personnel and first responders face during routine and emergency operations. Researchers have developed a smart, breathable fabric designed to protect the wearer against biological and chemical warfare agents. Material of this type could be used in clinical and medical settings as well.

Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of chemical weapons in the Syria conflict have provided a stark reminder of the plethora of chemical and biological threats that soldiers, medical personnel and first responders face during routine and emergency operations.

Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/05/11/carbon-nanotube-second-skin-protects-first-responders-and-warfighters-against-chem-bio-agents-lawrence-livermore-national-laboratory/

MIT: Lighting the Way to Better Battery Technology

Supratim Das is determined to demystify lithium-ion batteries, by first understanding their flaws.  Photo: Lillie Paquette/School of Engineering

Doctoral candidate Supratim Das wants the world to know how to make longer-lasting batteries that charge mobile phones and electric cars.

Supratim Das’s quest for the perfect battery began in the dark. Growing up in Kolkata, India, Das saw that a ready supply of electric power was a luxury his family didn’t have. “I wanted to do something about it,” Das says. Now a fourth-year PhD candidate in MIT chemical engineering who’s months away from defending his thesis, he’s been investigating what causes the batteries that power the world’s mobile phones and electric cars to deteriorate over time.

Lithium-ion batteries, so-named for the movement of lithium ions that make them work, power most rechargeable devices today. The element lithium has properties that allow lithium-ion batteries to be both portable and powerful; the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to scientists who helped develop them in the late 1970s. But despite their widespread use, lithium-ion batteries, essentially a black box during operation, harbor mysteries that prevent scientists from unlocking their full potential. Das is determined to demystify them, by first understanding their flaws.

Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/07/06/mit-lighting-the-way-to-better-battery-technology/

Nuclear Diamond Batteries could disrupt Energy/ Energy Storage as we know it … “Imagine a World where you wouldn’t need to charge your battery for …. Decades!”

Illustration of the NDB Battery in a Most Recognizable ‘18650’ Format

They will blow any energy density comparison out of the water, lasting anywhere from a decade to 28,000 years without ever needing a charge.”

“They will offer higher power density than lithium-ion. They will be nigh-on indestructible and totally safe in an electric car crash.”

And in some applications, like electric cars, they stand to be considerably cheaper than current lithium-ion packs despite their huge advantages.

In the words of Dr. John Shawe-Taylor, UNESCO Chair and University College London Professor: “NDB has the potential to solve the major global issue of carbon emissions in one stroke without the expensive infrastructure projects, energy transportation costs, or negative environmental impacts associated with alternate solutions such as carbon capture at fossil fuel power stations, hydroelectric plants, turbines, or nuclear power stations.

Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/08/25/nano-diamond-self-charging-batteries-could-disrupt-energy-as-we-know-it-imagine-a-world-where-you-wouldnt-need-to-charge-your-battery-for-decades/

“Practical and Viable” Hydrogen Production from Solar – Long Sought Goal of Renewable Energy – Is Close … Oh So Close

Technology developed at the Technion: the oxygen and hydrogen are produced and stored in completely separate cells.

Technion Israel Institute of Technology

Israeli and Italian scientists have developed a renewable energy technology that converts solar energy to hydrogen fuel — and it’s reportedly at the threshold of “practical” viability.The new solar tech would offer a sustainable way to turn water and sunlight into storable energy for fuel cells, whether that stored power feeds into the electrical grid or goes to fuel-cell powered trucks, trains, cars, ships, planes or industrial processes.Think of this research as a sort of artificial photosynthesis, said Lilac Amirav, associate professor of chemistry at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. (If it could be scaled up, the technology could eventually be the basis of “solar factories” in which arrays of solar collectors split water into stores of hydrogen fuel——as well as, for reasons discussed below, one or more other industrial chemicals.)Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/09/02/practical-and-viable-hydrogen-production-from-solar-long-sought-goal-of-renewable-energy-is-close-oh-so-close/

Watch More … The EV ‘Revolution and Evolution’ … Will the Era of the ICE be over in 2025? 2030?

Tony Seba, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Author and Thought Leader, Lecturer at Stanford University, Keynote The reinvention and connection between infrastructure and mobility will fundamentally disrupt the clean transport model. It will change the way governments and consumers think about mobility, how power is delivered and consumed and the payment models for usage.

“Practical and Viable” Hydrogen Production from Solar – Long Sought Goal of Renewable Energy – Is Close … Oh So Close


Technion Israel Institute of Technology

Israeli and Italian scientists have developed a renewable energy technology that converts solar energy to hydrogen fuel — and it’s reportedly at the threshold of “practical” viability.

The new solar tech would offer a sustainable way to turn water and sunlight into storable energy for fuel cells, whether that stored power feeds into the electrical grid or goes to fuel-cell powered trucks, trains, cars, ships, planes or industrial processes.

Think of this research as a sort of artificial photosynthesis, said Lilac Amirav, associate professor of chemistry at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. (If it could be scaled up, the technology could eventually be the basis of “solar factories” in which arrays of solar collectors split water into stores of hydrogen fuel——as well as, for reasons discussed below, one or more other industrial chemicals.)

“We [start with] a semiconductor that’s very similar to what we have in solar panels,” says Amirav. But rather than taking the photovoltaic route of using sunlight to liberate a current of electrons, the reaction they’re studying harnesses sunlight to efficiently and cost-effectively peel off hydrogen from water molecules.

The big hurdle to date has been that hydrogen and oxygen just as readily recombine once they’re split apart—that is, unless a catalyst can be introduced to the reaction that shunts water’s two component elements away from one another.

Enter the rod-shaped nanoparticles Amirav and co-researchers have developed. The wand-like rods (50-60 nanometers long and just 4.5 nm in diameter) are all tipped with platinum spheres 2–3 nm in diameter, like nano-size marbles fastened onto the ends of drinking straws.

Since 2010, when the team first began publishing papers about such specially tuned nanorods, they’ve been tweaking the design to maximize its ability to extract as much hydrogen and excess energy as possible from “solar-to-chemical energy conversion.”

Which brings us back to those “other” industrial chemicals. Because creating molecular hydrogen out of water also yields oxygen, they realized they had to figure out what to do with that byproduct.

“When you’re thinking about artificial photosynthesis, you care about hydrogen—because hydrogen’s a fuel,” says Amirav. “Oxygen is not such an interesting product. But that is the bottleneck of the process.”

There’s no getting around the fact that oxygen liberated from split water molecules carries energy away from the reaction, too. So, unless it’s harnessed, it ultimately represents just wasted solar energy—which means lost efficiency in the overall reaction.

Technology developed at the Technion: the oxygen and hydrogen are produced and stored in completely separate cells.

Prof. Avner Rothschild from the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering

Read More About “Hydrogen on Demand Technology” from Technion

So, the researchers added another reaction to the process. Not only does their platinum-tipped nanorod catalyst use solar energy to turn water into hydrogen, it also uses the liberated oxygen to convert the organic molecule benzylamine into the industrial chemical benzaldehyde (commonly used in dyes, flavoring extracts, and perfumes).

All told, the nanorods convert 4.2 percent of the energy of incoming sunlight into chemical bonds. Considering the energy in the hydrogen fuel alone, they convert 3.6 percent of sunlight energy into stored fuel.

These might seem like minuscule figures. But 3.6 percent is still considerably better than the 1-2 percent range that previous technologies had achieved.

And according to the U.S. Department of Energy, 5-10 percent efficiency is all that’s needed to reach what the researchers call the “practical feasibility threshold” for solar hydrogen generation.

Between February and August of this year, Amirav and her colleagues published about the above innovations in the journals NanoEnergy and Chemistry Europe. They also recently presented their research at the fall virtual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

In their presentation, which hinted at future directions for their work, they teased further efficiency improvements courtesy of new new work with AI data mining experts.

“We are looking for alternative organic transformations,” says Amirav. This way, she and her collaborators hope, their solar factories can produce hydrogen fuel plus an array of other useful industrial byproducts.

In the future, their artificial photosynthesis process could yield low-emission energy, plus some beneficial chemical extracts as a “practical” and “feasible” side-effect.

Nuclear Diamond Batteries could disrupt Energy/ Energy Storage as we know it … “Imagine a World where you wouldn’t need to charge your battery for …. Decades!”


Nano-Diamond-Self-Charging-Battery-FB
Illustration of the NDB Battery in a Most Recognizable ‘18650’ Format

They will blow any energy density comparison out of the water, lasting anywhere from a decade to 28,000 years without ever needing a charge.”

“They will offer higher power density than lithium-ion. They will be nigh-on indestructible and totally safe in an electric car crash.”

And in some applications, like electric cars, they stand to be considerably cheaper than current lithium-ion packs despite their huge advantages.

In the words of Dr. John Shawe-Taylor, UNESCO Chair and University College London Professor: “NDB has the potential to solve the major global issue of carbon emissions in one stroke without the expensive infrastructure projects, energy transportation costs, or negative environmental impacts associated with alternate solutions such as carbon capture at fossil fuel power stations, hydroelectric plants, turbines, or nuclear power stations.

 

So What is NDB’s Story and How Do They Work?

The heart of each cell is a small piece of recycled nuclear waste. NDB (nuclear diamond battery) uses graphite nuclear reactor parts that have absorbed radiation from nuclear fuel rods and have themselves become radioactive.

Untreated, it’s high-grade nuclear waste: dangerous, difficult and expensive to store, with a very long half-life.

This graphite is rich in the carbon-14 radioisotope, which undergoes beta decay into nitrogen, releasing an anti-neutrino and a beta decay electron in the process. NDB takes this graphite, purifies it and uses it to create tiny carbon-14 diamonds.

nuclear-waste-diamond-batteries-768x403

The diamond structure acts as a semiconductor and heat sink, collecting the charge and transporting it out. Completely encasing the radioactive carbon-14 diamond is a layer of cheap, non-radioactive, lab-created carbon-12 diamond, which contains the energetic particles, prevents radiation leaks and acts as a super-hard protective and tamper-proof layer.

To create a battery cell, several layers of this nano-diamond material are stacked up and stored with a tiny integrated circuit board and a small supercapacitor to collect, store and instantly distribute the charge. NDB says it’ll conform to any shape or standard, including AA, AAA, 18650, 2170 or all manner of custom sizes.

And so what you get is a tiny miniature power generator in the shape of a battery that never needs charging – and that NDB says will be cost-competitive with, and sometimes significantly less expensive than – current lithium batteries. That equation is helped along by the fact that some of the suppliers of the original nuclear waste will pay NDB to take it off their hands. 

img_1875

Shown here as a small, circuit board mounted design, the nano diamond battery has the potential to totally upend the energy equation since it never needs charging and lasts many, many years

Radiation levels from a cell, NDB tells us, will be less than the radiation levels produced by the human body itself, making it totally safe for use in a variety of applications. At the small scale, these could include things like pacemaker batteries and other electronic implants, where their long lifespan will save the wearer from replacement surgeries. They could also be placed directly onto circuit boards, delivering power for the lifespan of a device.

In a consumer electronics application, NDB’s Neel Naicker gives us an example of just how different these devices would be: “Think of it in an iPhone. With the same size battery, it would charge your battery from zero to full, five times an hour. Imagine that.

Imagine a world where you wouldn’t have to charge your battery at all for the day. Now imagine for the week, for the month… How about for decades? That’s what we’re able to do with this technology.”

And it can scale up to electric vehicle sizes and beyond, offering superb power density in a battery pack that is projected to last as long as 90 years in that application – something that could be pulled out of your old car and put into a new one. If part of a cell fails, the active nano diamond part can be recycled into another cell, and once they reach the end of their lifespan – which could be up to 28,000 years for a low-powered sensor that might, for example, be used on a satellite – they leave nothing but “harmless byproducts.”

In the words of Dr. John Shawe-Taylor, UNESCO Chair and University College London Professor: “NDB has the potential to solve the major global issue of carbon emissions in one stroke without the expensive infrastructure projects, energy transportation costs, or negative environmental impacts associated with alternate solutions such as carbon capture at fossil fuel power stations, hydroelectric plants, turbines, or nuclear power stations.

Their technology’s ability to deliver energy over very long periods of time without the need for recharging, refueling, or servicing puts them in an ideal position to tackle the world’s energy requirements through a distributed solution with close to zero environmental impact and energy transportation costs.”

Indeed, the NDB battery offers an outstanding 24-hour energy proposition for off-grid living, and the NDB team is adamant that it wishes to devote a percentage of its time to providing it to needy remote communities as a charity service with the support of some of the company’s business customers.

Should the company chew right through the world’s full supply of carbon-14 nuclear waste – a prospect that would take some extremely serious volume – NDB says it can create its own carbon-14 raw material simply and cost-effectively.

The company has completed a proof of concept, and is ready to begin building its commercial prototype once its labs reopen after COVID shutdown. A low-powered commercial version is expected to hit the market in less than two years, and the high powered version is projected for five years’ time. NDB says it’s well ahead of its competition with patents pending on its technology and manufacturing processes. 

Should this pan out as promised, it’s hard to see how this won’t be a revolutionary power source. Such a long-life battery will fundamentally challenge the disposable ethos of many modern technologies, or lead to battery packs that consumers carry with them from phone to phone, car to car, laptop to laptop across decades. NDB-equipped homes can be grid-connected or not. Each battery is its own near-inexhaustible green energy source, quietly turning nuclear waste into useful energy. 

Sounds like remarkable news to us!

We spoke with several members of the NDB executive team. Check out the full edited transcript of that interview for more information, or watch the cartoon video below.

Nano Diamond Battery Explainer Video – NDB

Source: NDB

Want to Know More? Listen to Professor Simon Holland Explain Pros and Cons

Fuel cells for hydrogen vehicles are lasting longer and longer and … Promising Research from the University of Copenhagen


The new electrocatalyst for hydrogen fuel cells consists of a thin platinum-cobalt alloy network and, unlike the catalysts commonly used today, does not require a carbon carrier. Credit: Gustav Sievers

Roughly 1 billion cars and trucks zoom about the world’s roadways. Only a few run on hydrogen.

This could change after a breakthrough achieved by researchers at the University of Copenhagen.

The breakthrough? A new catalyst that can be used to produce cheaper and far more sustainable hydrogen powered vehicles.

Hydrogen vehicles are a rare sight. This is partly because they rely on a large amount of platinum to serve as a catalyst in their fuel cells—about 50 grams. Typically, vehicles only need about five grams of this rare and precious material. Indeed, only 100 tons of platinum are mined annually, in South Africa.

Now, researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Chemistry have developed a catalyst that doesn’t require such a large quantity of platinum.

“We have developed a catalyst which, in the laboratory, only needs a fraction of the amount of platinum that current  fuel cells for cars do. We are approaching the same amount of platinum as needed for a conventional .

At the same time, the new catalyst is much more stable than the catalysts deployed in today’s hydrogen powered vehicles,” explains Professor Matthias Arenz from the Department of Chemistry.

A paradigm shift for hydrogen vehicles

Sustainable technologies are often challenged by the limited availability of the rare materials that make them possible, which in turn, limits scalability.

Due to this current limitation, it is impossible to simply replace the world’s vehicles with hydrogen models overnight. As such, the new technology a game-changer.

“The new catalyst can make it possible to roll out hydrogen vehicles on a vastly greater scale than could have ever been achieved in the past,” states Professor Jan Rossmeisl, center leader of the Center for High Entropy Alloy Catalysis at UCPH’s Department of Chemistry.

The new catalyst improves fuel cells significantly, by making it possible to produce more horsepower per gram of platinum. This in turn, makes the production of hydrogen  vehicles more sustainable.

More durable, less platinum

Because only the surface of a catalyst is active, as many platinum atoms as possible are needed to coat it. A catalyst must also be durable. Herein lies the conflict.

To gain as much surface area as possible, today’s catalysts are based on -nano-particles which are coated over carbon. Unfortunately, carbon makes catalysts unstable. The new catalyst is distinguished by being carbon-free.

Instead of nano-particles, the researchers have developed a network of nanowires characterized an abundance of surface area and high durability.

“With this breakthrough, the notion of hydrogen vehicles becoming commonplace has become more realistic. It allows them to become cheaper, more sustainable and more durable,” says Jan Rossmeisl.

Dialogue with the automotive industry

The next step for the researchers is to scale up their results so that the technology can be implemented in hydrogen vehicles.

“We are in talks with the  about how this breakthrough can be rolled out in practice. So, things look quite promising,” says Professor Matthias Arenz.

The research results have just been published in Nature Materials, one of the leading scientific journals for materials research. It is the first article in which every researcher at the basic research center, “Center for High Entropy Alloy Catalysis (CHEAC)”, has collaborated.

The center is a so-called Center of Excellence, supported by the Danish National Research Foundation.

“At the center, we develop new materials to create sustainable chemicals and fuels that help society make the chemical industry greener. That it is now possible to scale up the production of hydrogen vehicles, and in a sustainable way, is a major step forward,” says center leader Jan Rossmeisl.

“Great Things from Small Things” Top 50 Nanotech Blog – Read What You Missed Last Week!


 

The Links below will take you to our Top Posts from last week. Thanks for Following Us!

– Team GNT –

Getting More Cancer-Fighting Nanoparticles to Where they are Needed – University of Toronto

University of Toronto Engineering researchers have discovered a dose threshold that greatly increases the delivery of cancer-fighting drugs into a tumor. Determining this threshold provides a potentially universal method for gauging nanoparticle dosage and could help advance a new generation of cancer therapy, imaging and diagnostics ….

A Titanate Nanowire Mask that can Eliminate Pathogens – EPFL Labs

Filter ‘paper’ made from titanium oxide nanowires is capable of trapping pathogens and destroying them with light. This discovery by an EPFL laboratory could be put to use in personal protective equipment, as well as in ventilation and air conditioning systems. As part of attempts to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic … 

NanoCommerce Inks Joint Venture with Pulsar UAV to Develop and Commercialize On-Board Hydrogen Powered Drone

NanoCommerce Sdn Bhd (NCSB), a subsidiary of NanoMalaysia Bhd, signed a joint venture with Pulsar UAV Sdn Bhd (PUSB) to commercialize an increased range hydrogen-powered drone known as the High Endurance Fuel Cell Powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (On-board H2 Generation). The partnership will give NanoCommerce a 20 per cent stake in Pulsar UAV, a Malaysian company that builds its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones from scratch ….

Phoenix Arizona’s ‘Lectric eBikes are taking the Industry by Storm – 2 Young Entrepreneurs Capture Market Interest with ‘Fun-To-Ride’ Affordable eBikes

All Levi Conlow’s dad wanted was an electric bike that didn’t cause sticker shock. So when he approached his son and his son’s best friend Robby Deziel with the proposal that they put their heads together to make obtaining his e-bike dream come true, the new college graduates started thinking. “My dad was just entering that phase of his life when he wanted an e-bike for himself and my mom. Their friends had e-bikes,” Conlow said. “He was frustrated. He couldn’t find one for less than $2,000 or $3,000” ….

Hyperion’s Hydrogen-Powered Supercar can Drive 1,000 Miles (Yes … ONE THOUSAND MILES) on a Single Tank And … Go from ‘0’ to 60 in 2+ Seconds!

The Hyperion XP-1 Pictured Above

Hyperion, a California-based company, has unveiled a hydrogen-powered supercar the company hopes will change the way people view hydrogen fuel cell technology.  The Hyperion XP-1 will be able to drive for up to 1,000 miles on one tank of compressed hydrogen gas and its electric motors will generate more than 1,000 horsepower, according to the company. The all-wheel-drive car can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in a little over two seconds, the company said.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are electric cars that use hydrogen to generate power inside the car rather than using batteries to store energy. The XP-1 doesn’t combust hydrogen but uses it in fuel cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen from the air in a process that creates water, the vehicle’s only emission, and a stream of electricity to power the car.

Elec and Hydro 11456746-3x2-xlarge

 

You May Also Want to Read About: Hydrogen or Electric Vehicles? The Answer is … Probably Both

 

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Hyperion’s hydrogen-powered supercar can drive 1,000 miles on a single tank And … Go ‘0’ to 60 in 2+ seconds


The Hyperion XP-1

Hyperion, a California-based company, has unveiled a hydrogen-powered supercar the company hopes will change the way people view hydrogen fuel cell technology. 

The Hyperion XP-1 will be able to drive for up to 1,000 miles on one tank of compressed hydrogen gas and its electric motors will generate more than 1,000 horsepower, according to the company. The all-wheel-drive car can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in a little over two seconds, the company said.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are electric cars that use hydrogen to generate power inside the car rather than using batteries to store energy. The XP-1 doesn’t combust hydrogen but uses it in fuel cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen from the air in a process that creates water, the vehicle’s only emission, and a stream of electricity to power the car.

The Hyperion XP-1's main purpose is to generate interest in hydrogen power, the company's CEO said.

The Hyperion XP-1’s main purpose is to generate interest in hydrogen power, the company’s CEO said.

The XP-1 has much longer range than a battery-powered electric car because compressed hydrogen has much more power per liter than a battery, Hyperion CEO Angelo Kafantaris explained.

Also, because hydrogen gas is very light, the overall vehicle weighs much less than one packed with heavy batteries. That, in turn, makes the car more energy efficient so that it can go farther and faster.

Many car companies, including HondaToyota, Hyundai and General Motors, have produced hydrogen fuel vehicles for research purposes or for sale in small numbers. 

But the technology is starting to gain more support. Start up truck maker, Nikola, for example, plans to sell hydrogen-powered semis and pickup trucks. Other companies haven’t yet created an exciting car that will capture the public’s attention, though, said Kafantaris.

The biggest challenge facing hydrogen-powered cars has been fueling them. Compared to gasoline or electricity, there’s little hydrogen infrastructure in America. Public charging stations for electric cars are much more plentiful than hydrogen filling stations A Department of Energy map of publicly accessible hydrogen filling stations shows clusters of dots around major California cities and no dots at all throughout nearly all the rest of the country.

Hydrogen is extremely light which helps the Hyperion XP-1's performance.

Hydrogen is extremely light which helps the Hyperion XP-1’s performance.

Hydrogen is the first and simplest element on the periodic table. Colorless and odorless, it has only a single proton at its center with one electron around it. 

While it is the most plentiful element in the universe, hydrogen doesn’t naturally exist by itself. Before it can be used as a fuel, hydrogen has to be broken out of molecules of water, natural gas or other substances. That’s usually done by using electricity to split those larger molecules apart. Energy is then released inside the car when the hydrogen combines again with oxygen. 

The main advantage of hydrogen is that pumping a tank full of hydrogen takes much less time than charging a battery. It only takes three to five minutes to fill the tank on the XP-1 for a 1,000 mile trip, for instance.

Hydrogen gas also isn’t subject to wear and degradation as batteries are, especially when fast-charged, said Kafantaris. The XP-1 does have a battery that acts as a buffer to store electricity generated by the fuel cell, but it’s much smaller than the battery packs used in electric cars.

The real purpose of the Hyperion XP-1 is to generate interest in hydrogen fuel, the company said.

Hyperion already has several operational prototype cars, said Kafantaris. The first production cars are expected to be delivered to customers by the end of next year. Kafantaris did not detail pricing for the car, but indicated that prices will vary depending on the level of performance.

The highest-performing versions, ones capable of producing 1,000 horsepower, could cost in the millions. The company is capping production at 300 examples.

The company is hoping to manufacture the XP-1 somewhere in the Midwest, Kafantaris said. Following the XP-1, the company hopes to make more practical hydrogen-fueled cars for a broader range of customers.

The company also hopes to popularize the idea of hydrogen as an energy medium for vehicles, as well as for other uses, he said. Hyperion has been working with NASA to commercialize various hydrogen technologies that the space agency currently uses and to develop new uses, he said. 

The space agency confirmed to CNN Business that Hyperion has agreements to license a number of NASA technologies.

“Part of what we’re aiming to do is to give a sense of pride for what America has done in the past, through NASA technology, and kind of brings people together around something that everybody can look at and say ‘That’s American, I’m proud of that,” Kafantaris said.

NanoCommerce Inks Joint Venture with Pulsar UAV to Develop and Commercialize On-Board Hydrogen Powered Drone


Drone Maylasian thumbnail_68f24af0cb308e5e8bc43fdd50177c98

NanoCommerce Sdn Bhd (NCSB), a subsidiary of NanoMalaysia Bhd, signed a joint venture with Pulsar UAV Sdn Bhd (PUSB) to commercialize an increased range hydrogen-powered drone known as the High Endurance Fuel Cell Powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (On-board H2 Generation).

The partnership will give NanoCommerce a 20 per cent stake in Pulsar UAV, a Malaysian company that builds its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones from scratch.

Hydrogen produced within the drone allows for it to fly for a longer time due to the core technology, which is hydrogen fuel cell, known for better endurance. The differentiating factor here is that the drone is equipped with a nanotechnology enhanced hydrogen reactor that produces hydrogen on-demand to the fuel cells. This generates electricity to power the rotors for flight without the need for heavy compressed gas storage thereby, improving the power-to-weight ratio.

According to Izmir Yamin, Chief Executive Officer of Pulsar UAV, the collaboration with NanoMalaysia will help Pulsar UAV to validate the needs of drone services in various sectors particularly, agriculture.

“The market validation gives us reason to further improve our drone services by developing an on-board hydrogen generator. Now, with our in-house hydrogen technology, we are not only improving the drone services, but we are also able to venture into other sectors like energy and transportation,” Izmir said.

In a similar note, Dr Rezal Khairi Ahmad, CEO of NanoCommerce and NanoMalaysia said that NanoMalaysia places an enormous intrinsic value on the project through a congregation of project investments, intellectual properties, and market validation and access.

The on-board hydrogen powered drone has already been sandboxed for precision agriculture with a level of success,” Rezal said.

The joint venture will also enable NanoMalaysia Berhad to further develop the existing Hydrogen Paired Hybrid Energy Storage System (H2SS) – which currently powers Pulsar’s drones – for another project. It will be Malaysia’s first locally developed electric motorsports vehicle, the Hydrogen Paired Electric Racecar (HyPER).

HyPER, aims to mobilise the Malaysian automotive and transportation sectors in the direction of renewable energy, specifically green hydrogen as a first step towards a Hydrogen Economy.

The global Electric Vehicle (EV) market stood at USD39.8 billion (RM167 billion) in 2018 and is projected to reach USD1.5 trillion (approximately RM6.4 trillion) by 2025.

Currently, the EV market is hindered by the lack of charging infrastructures and the need for an extended charging time, as well as hydrogen refuelling stations for battery and fuel cell versions respectively. The high-pressured hydrogen tanks in fuel cell-EVs also present a substantial safety risk. The H2SS technology will be able to combat these issues.

Firstly, H2SS will be placed in HyPER as a cartridge and is powered using distilled or tap water and powdered hydrides – eliminating the need for expensive hydrogen refuelling stations.

Secondly, it can generate its own hydrogen fuel, which takes away the risk of having a hydrogen tank in the vehicle.

Dr Rezal also commented that HyPER is due for extensive shakedown in August 2020 with participation from potential industrial up-takers for quicker penetration into the automotive sector.

Malaysia will immediately possess an advantage in the form of homegrown hydrogen technology to catalyse the growth of a new and green automotive and transport industry in the near term.
Read the original article on Business Today.

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A Titanate Nanowire Mask that can Eliminate Pathogens EPFL Labs


nano wire mask atitanatenan

Filter ‘paper’ made from titanium oxide nanowires is capable of trapping pathogens and destroying them with light. This discovery by an EPFL laboratory could be put to use in personal protective equipment, as well as in ventilation and air conditioning systems.

As part of attempts to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic, paper masks are increasingly being made mandatory. Their relative effectiveness is no longer in question, but their widespread use has a number of drawbacks. These include the environmental impact of disposable masks made from layers of non-woven polypropylene plastic microfibres. Moreover, they merely trap pathogens instead of destroying them. “In a hospital setting, these masks are placed in special bins and handled appropriately,” says László Forró, head of EPFL’s Laboratory of Physics of Complex Matter. “However, their use in the wider world—where they are tossed into open waste bins and even left on the street—can turn them into new sources of contamination.”

Researchers in Forró’s lab are working on a promising solution to this problem: a membrane made of titanium oxide nanowires, similar in appearance to filter paper but with antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Their material works by using the photocatalytic properties of titanium dioxide. When exposed to ultraviolet radiation, the fibers convert resident moisture into oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide, which have the ability to destroy pathogens. “Since our filter is exceptionally good at absorbing moisture, it can trap droplets that carry viruses and bacteria,” says Forró. “This creates a favorable environment for the oxidation process, which is triggered by light.”

The researchers’ work appears today in Advanced Functional Materials, and includes experiments that demonstrate the membrane’s ability to destroy E. coli, the reference bacterium in biomedical research, and DNA strands in a matter of seconds. Based on these results, the researchers assert—although this remains to be demonstrated experimentally—that the process would be equally successful on a wide range of viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.

Their article also states that manufacturing such membranes would be feasible on a large scale: the laboratory’s equipment alone is capable of producing up to 200 m2 of filter paper per week, or enough for up to 80,000 masks per month. Moreover, the masks could be sterilized and reused up a thousand times. This would alleviate shortages and substantially reduce the amount of waste created by disposable surgical masks. Finally, the manufacturing process, which involves calcining the titanite nanowires, makes them stable and prevents the risk of nanoparticles being inhaled by the user.

A start-up named Swoxid is already preparing to move the technology out of the lab. “The membranes could also be used in air treatment applications such as ventilation and air conditioning systems as well as in personal protective equipment,” says Endre Horváth, the article’s lead author and co-founder of Swoxid.

Source.

Getting more Cancer-Fighting Nanoparticles to where they are Needed: University of Toronto


2-chemotherapyCredit: CC0 Public Domain

University of Toronto Engineering researchers have discovered a dose threshold that greatly increases the delivery of cancer-fighting drugs into a tumor.

Determining this threshold provides a potentially universal method for gauging nanoparticle dosage and could help advance a new generation of cancer therapy, imaging and diagnostics.

“It’s a very simple solution, adjusting the dosage, but the results are very powerful,” says MD/Ph.D. candidate Ben Ouyang, who led the research under the supervision of Professor Warren Chan.

Their findings were published today in Nature Materials, providing solutions to a drug- problem previously raised by Chan and researchers four years ago in Nature Reviews Materials.

Nanotechnology carriers are used to deliver drugs to cancer sites, which in turn can help a patient’s response to treatment and reduce , such as hair loss and vomiting. However, in practice, few injected particles reach the tumor site.

In the Nature Reviews Materials paper, the team surveyed literature from the past decade and found that on median, only 0.7 percent of the chemotherapeutic nanoparticles make it into a targeted tumor.

“The promise of emerging therapeutics is dependent upon our ability to deliver them to the target site,” explains Chan. “We have discovered a new principle of enhancing the delivery process. This could be important for nanotechnology, genome editors, immunotherapy, and other technologies.”

Chan’s team saw the liver, which filters the blood, as the biggest barrier to nanoparticle drug delivery. They hypothesized that the liver would have an uptake rate threshold—in other words, once the organ becomes saturated with nanoparticles, it wouldn’t be able to keep up with . Their solution was to manipulate the dose to overwhelm the organ’s filtering Kupffer cells, which line the liver channels.

The researchers discovered that injecting a baseline of 1 trillion nanoparticles in mice, in vivo, was enough to overwhelm the cells so that they couldn’t take up particles quick enough to keep up with the increased doses. The result is a 12 percent delivery efficiency to the tumor.

“There’s still lots of work to do to increase the 12 percent but it’s a big step from 0.7,” says Ouyang. The researchers also extensively tested whether overwhelming Kupffer cells led to any risk of toxicity in the liver, heart or blood.

“We tested gold, silica, and liposomes,” says Ouyang. “In all of our studies, no matter how high we pushed the dosage, we never saw any signs of toxicity.”

The team used this threshold principle to improve the effectiveness of a clinically used and chemotherapy-loaded nanoparticle called Caelyx. Their strategy shrank tumors 60 percent more when compared to Caelyx on its own at a set dose of the chemotherapy drug, doxorubicin.

Because the researchers’ solution is a simple one, they hope to see the threshold having positive implications in even current nanoparticle-dosing conventions for human clinical trials. They calculate that the human threshold would be about 1.5 quadrillion nanoparticles.

“There’s a simplicity to this method and reveals that we don’t have to redesign the  to improve delivery,” says Chan. “This could overcome a major delivery problem.”


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