NTU Contributes to the Sustainable Development of Marine Resources, Results Published in Science Advances

The Shackleton team led by Prof. Kevin C.-W. Wu (吳嘉文) of the Dept. Chemical Engineering, National Taiwan University, developed a Highly Selective, High-Performance Osmotic Power Generator that mimics the functionality of biological ion channels. The results were published in the Science Advances.

The sustainable development goals proposed by the United Nations in 2015 include making marine resources sustainable by 2030. In the research and development of “blue energy,” the use of ion-selective membranes to convert ionic gradients into electric energy has generated a high level of interest. However, the performance thus far has been limited by the high mass transfer resistance of disordered nanoporous films.

With the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Prof. Kevin C.-W. Wu of NTU’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Prof. Li-Hsien Yeh (葉禮賢) of the Dept. Chemical Engineering, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, have worked together to solve this problem by creating a biomimic nanoporous membrane consisting of metal-organic frameworks (i.e. UiO-66-NH2). The team was inspired by the characteristics of biological ion channels in electric eels with high hole density, ion transmission, and ion selection (see figure below).

The "defect-free" metal-organic framework (UiO-66-NH2) film was successfully grown on another highly ordered alumina nanochannel film (ANM). The research results verified that this heterogeneous film has ultra-high-speed ion transmission and ion diode properties, as well as ultra-high Br-/NO3- anion selectivity. Both features have set a new record in the field.

The team members believe that the metal-organic frameworks (MOFs)-based heterogeneous membrane that mimics the functionality of bio-ion channels will offer ample room for development in terms of advanced separation technology, seawater desalination as well as other energy fields in the future. It is also noteworthy that all four authors are from Taiwan. The team remains grateful for the support of the Shackleton Research Project from the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and (NTU), and feels deeply honored to contribute to the sustainable use of marine resources on behalf of Taiwan.

Schematic depiction of the electric-eel-inspired heterogeneous membrane, UiO-66-NH2@ANM with sub-nanoscale channels. The continuous and pinhole-free UiO-66-NH2 membrane with numerous ordered sub-nanochannels was fabricated onto the alumina nanochannel membrane (ANM) support.