This paper is a contribution to the Physical Review Applied collection in memory of Mildred S. Dresselhaus.The mechanism of water diffusion across reverse osmosis nanocomposite membranes made of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and aromatic polyamide is not completely understood despite its high potential for desalination applications. While most of the groups have proposed that superflow inside the CNT might positively impact the water flow across membranes, here we show theoretical evidence that this is not likely the case in composite membranes because CNTs are usually oriented parallel to the membrane surface, not to mention that sometimes the nanotube cores are occluded. Instead, we propose an oriented diffusion mechanism that explains the high water permeation by decreasing the diffusion path of water molecules across the membranes, even in the presence of CNTs that behave as impermeable objects. Finally, we provide a comprehensive description of the molecular dynamics occurring in water desalination membranes by considering the bond polarizability caused by dynamic charge transfer and explore the use of molecular-dynamics-derived stochastic diffusion simulations. The proposed water diffusion mechanism offers an alternative and most likely explanation for the high permeation phenomena observed in CNTs and PA nanocomposite membranes, and its understanding can be helpful to design the next generation of reverse osmosis desalination membranes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy(all)