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Control Of Unidirectional Transport Of Single-file Water Molecules Through Carbon Nanotubes In An Electric Field.

J. Su, Hongxia Guo
Published 2011 · Materials Science, Medicine

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The transport of water molecules through nanopores is not only crucial to biological activities but also useful for designing novel nanofluidic devices. Despite considerable effort and progress that has been made, a controllable and unidirectional water flow is still difficult to achieve and the underlying mechanism is far from being understood. In this paper, using molecular dynamics simulations, we systematically investigate the effects of an external electric field on the transport of single-file water molecules through a carbon nanotube (CNT). We find that the orientation of water molecules inside the CNT can be well-tuned by the electric field and is strongly coupled to the water flux. This orientation-induced water flux is energetically due to the asymmetrical water-water interaction along the CNT axis. The wavelike water density profiles are disturbed under strong field strengths. The frequency of flipping for the water dipoles will decrease as the field strength is increased, and the flipping events vanish completely for the relatively large field strengths. Most importantly, a critical field strength E(c) related to the water flux is found. The water flux is increased as E is increased for E ≤ E(c), while it is almost unchanged for E > E(c). Thus, the electric field offers a level of governing for unidirectional water flow, which may have some biological applications and provides a route for designing efficient nanopumps.
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