Unidirectional and selective proton transport in artificial heterostructured nanochannels with nano-to-subnano confined water clusters

Xingya Li, Huacheng Zhang, Hao Yu, Jun Xia, Yin Bo Zhu, Heng An Wu, Jue Hou, Jun Lu, Ranwen Ou, Christopher D. Easton, Cordelia Selomulya, Matthew R. Hill, Lei Jiang, Huanting Wang

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The construction of biological proton channel analogues has attracted substantial interest owing to their wide potential in separation of ions, sensing, and energy conversion. Here, metal–organic framework (MOF)/polymer heterogeneous nanochannels are presented, in which water molecules are confined to disordered clusters in the nanometer-sized polymer regions and to ordered chains with unique molecular configurations in the 1D sub-1-nm porous MOF regions, to realize unidirectional, fast, and selective proton transport properties, analogous to natural proton channels. Given the nano-to-subnano confined water junctions, experimental proton conductivities in the polymer-to-MOF direction of the channels are much higher than those in the opposite direction, showing a high rectification up to 500 and one to two orders of magnitude enhancement compared to the conductivity of proton transport in bulk water. The channels also show a good proton selectivity over other cations. Theoretical simulations further reveal that the preferential and fast proton conduction in the nano-to-subnano channel direction is attributed to extremely low energy barriers for proton transport from disordered to ordered water clusters. This study opens a novel approach to regulate ion permeability and selectivity of artificial ion channels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2001777
Number of pages7
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2020


  • 1D heterostructured nanochannels
  • disordered to ordered water clusters
  • metal–organic frameworks
  • nano-to-subnano asymmetric architectures
  • voltage-gated proton channels

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