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High Performance Separation of Nanoparticles Using Ultrathin Pnc-Si Membranes

Protein Size Ladder

Protein Size Ladder

Porous nanocrystalline silicon (pnc-Si) is a 15 nm thin free-standing membrane material with applications in small-scale separations, biosensors, cell culture, and lab-on-a-chip devices. Pnc-Si has already been shown to exhibit high permeability to diffusing species and selectivity based on molecular size or charge. In this report, we characterize properties of pnc-Si in pressurized flows. We compare results to long-standing theories for transport through short pores using actual pore distributions obtained directly from electron micrographs. The measured water permeability is in agreement with theory over a wide range of pore sizes and porosities and orders of magnitude higher than those exhibited by commercial ultrafiltration and experimental carbon nanotube membranes. We also show that pnc-Si membranes can be used in dead-end filtration to fractionate gold nanoparticles and protein size ladders with better than 5 nm resolution, insignificant sample loss, and little dilution of the filtrate. These performance characteristics, combined with scalable manufacturing, make pnc-Si filtration a straightforward solution to many nanoparticle and biological separation problems.


Gaborski et al. (November, 2010). High performance separation of nanoparticles using ultrathin pnc-Si membranes. ACS Nano 4:6973-6981.

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