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GF03 - Membrane technologies: from nanofluidics to nanoresonators

Motivation

Membranes are at the heart of many applications and industrial processes, such as desalination and water filtration, chemical analysis, energy harvesting, high-frequency electronics. Being an ultimate thin membrane with high mechanical strength, graphene has a unique potential in this field. Graphene membranes are extremely sensitive to small electrical signals, forces or masses due to their extremely low mass and large surface-to-volume ratio, and are ideal for nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS). They have also been used as support for TEM imaging and as biosensors. Nano-mechanical resonators hold promise as components which can be used, e.g., in the front ends of transceivers. There is currently no other technology available that could bring tunability to a high-quality resonator and thus a filter, enabling adaptivity, will benefit current cellular multi-radio systems and future cognitive radio architectures. While graphene is expected to be impermeable to most fluids and gases, nanoholes with controlled size and distribution can be introduced, thereby allowing to reach (sub)nanometric scales in all dimensions. These can be used for single-molecule DNA translocation, paving the way to devices for genomic screening, in particular DNA sequencing. Graphene membranes are also promising for applications involving fluidic transport. Gradients of driving forces, hydrodynamic pressure/electric field/salt gradients, could induce a strong increase of transport, enabling in principle up to several orders of magnitude increase in efficiency. At the fundamental level, new models of fluid transport are now emerging from the confinement of liquids at the nanoscale, and membranes based on graphene and related materials (GRMs) could challenge the limits of continuum fluid transport.

Complementarity is envisaged with WP7(Sensors), WP2(Health and Environment), WP4(High-frequency electronics), WP1(Materials). Consortia should have a minimum of one industrial partner. Consortia targeting nanoresonators must be industry led.

Objectives

  • Ultra-filtration, desalination, or new renewable energy production. In the context of desalination the GRM performance should be investigated in terms of flow permeability, salt rejection, etc., with the aim of surpassing the state of the art efficiency of reverse-osmosis.
  • Methods to build large-scale membranes for nanofluidics.
  • Energy harvesting technologies using membranes and fluids as vectors. Osmotic power, converting into electricity the free energy difference e.g. between sea water and fresh river water, could be explored.
  • Demonstrators should target electric power conversion > 5 W/m2.
  • Nanoresonators. Vibration measurements from pA until few of femtoAmperes, in order to explore the yoctonewton detection range.
    High Q resonators for mobile and wireless applications

Impact

  • Desalination and sustainable energy harvesting.
  • Osmotic energy exploitation.
  • Next generation mobile and wireless communications
  • On-chip fast and precise gyroscopic sensors or nanoelectrical motors.
  • Demonstration of low-cost GRM-based force microscope with high-resolution.

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