Indian American develops membrane to aid water purification

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Published: August 1, 2015 5:51:33 PM

An Indian-American has developed a self-assembling synthetic membrane that can aid in better water purification, drug delivery and DNA recognition by transporting a billion water molecules per channel per second.

An Indian-American has developed a self-assembling synthetic membrane that can aid in better water purification, drug delivery and DNA recognition by transporting a billion water molecules per channel per second.

The biomimetic membrane has been developed by Manish Kumar, assistant professor of chemical engineering in Penn State.

The membrane is composed of lipids — fat molecules — and protein-appended molecules that form water channels that transfer water at the rate of natural membranes and self-assembles into 2-dimensional structures with parallel channels.

“Nature does things very efficiently and transport proteins are amazing machines present in biological membranes,” said Kumar.

“They have functions that are hard to replicate in synthetic systems,” he added.

The researchers developed a second-generation synthetic water channel that improves on earlier attempts to mimic aquaporins — natural water channel proteins — by being more stable and easier to manufacture.

Kumar and co-authors report their development in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

“We were surprised to see transport rates approaching the ‘holy grail’ number of a billion water molecules per channel per second,” Kumar was quoted as saying by Science Daily.

“We also found that these artificial channels like to associate with each other in a membrane to make 2-dimentional arrays with a very high pore density,” Kumar said.

The researchers consider that the PAP membranes are an order of magnitude better than the first-generation artificial water channels reported to date. The propensity for these channels to automatically form densely packed arrays leads to a variety of engineering applications.

“The most obvious use of these channels is perhaps to make highly efficient water purification membranes,” said Kumar.

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