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The waterfiltration membrane transforms like a cell

U.of I.’s team of interdisciplinary researchers first observed and modeled nanoscale morphogenesis (a common process in nature) of synthetic materials. Research co-authors, from left to right, Professor Jie Feng, Professor Qian Chen, who has a picture of former postdoctoral fellow Hyosung An, and Professor Xiao Su. Credit: L. BrianStauffer

Morphogenesis is a natural way to build diverse structures and functions from a fixed set of components. Nature is rich in examples of morphogenesis (cell differentiation, embryogenesis, cytoskeleton formation, etc.), but there is little research on the phenomena of synthetic materials. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have taken a step towards observing soft polymers as they learn from nature, using electron tomography, hydrodynamic theory, and machine learning.


A new study led by Qian Chen, a professor of materials science and engineering. Jie Feng, Professor of Mechanical Sciences and Engineering. Xiao Su, Professor of Chemistry and Biomolecular Engineering. Is the first product to demonstrate nanoscale morphogenesis in synthetic materials.The study is published in the journal Science Advances..

“The filters in a household water purification system may look like a simple membrane with pores, but when zoomed in using electron tomography, they are much more sophisticated,” said the lead author of the study. Hyo Sung Ann, a former postdoctoral fellow in petrochemistry and a professor of petrochemistry, said. Materials engineering at Chonnam National University in Korea. “By capturing an image of the sample membrane from a rotatable stage, we can reconstruct a complete 3D morphology at sub-nanometer resolution.”

Imaging from different angles allows researchers to see the complex 3D structure of the membrane (all wrinkles, internal voids, networks) with spatial resolution never before possible. The structure is so complex that traditional shape descriptors such as radius and length are invalid, says Chen, who led the experimental part of the study.

To help team members worry about the complex nature of the membrane, graduate students John W. Smith and Lee Han Yao Machine learningA base workflow for digitizing structural parameters.

The efforts of Smith and Yao had an immediate impact.

“With synthetic membranes Biological systemFeng, who led the study’s fluid dynamics and reaction modeling with postdoctoral fellow Bingqiang Ji, said: The molecule is smart and similar morphogenesis is expected to occur with other soft polymer materials. Until now, there was simply no tool for identifying molecules. “

“The impact goes beyond mechanical understanding,” he said. film Separation research with graduate student Stephen Cotti. “One of the long-standing puzzles of separation science was how to correlate membrane morphology and performance. Our work combines a detailed nanoscale understanding of morphology with membrane filtration testing. It has important implications for various isolation contexts. “

Researchers envision a wide range of applications in this development that have the potential to extend the functionality of soft nanomaterials such as polymers, vesicles, microgels, and composites all through morphogenesis.

“By casting 3D nanomorphology during formative chemistry, this advance will help design other materials in complex 3D morphology,” Chen said. “The technology behind devices such as working nanomachines and other bio-inspired materials with accurate 3D interface morphology whose shape can affect biological interactions is all by our discovery. There is potential for progress. “

The paper “The Relationship between the Mechanism and Performance of Nanomorphogenesis in Polyamide Films Revealed by Quantitative 3D Imaging and Machine Learning” Science Advances..


3D nanometers-thin membranes borrow from biology


For more information:
Hyosung An et al, Mechanism and Performance Relationship of Nanomorphogenesis in Polyamide Films Revealed by Quantitative 3D Imaging and Machine Learning, Science Advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126 /sciadv.abk1888.. www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abk1888

Quote: The waterfiltration membrane transforms like a cell (February 23, 2022).

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