Exponentially selective molecular sieving through angstrom pores
P. Z. Sun, M. Yagmurcukardes, R. Zhang, W. J. Kuang, M. Lozada-Hidalgo, B. L. Liu, H.-M. Cheng, F. C. Wang, F. M. Peeters, I. V. Grigorieva & A. K. Geim
Two-dimensional crystals with angstrom-scale pores are widely considered as candidates for a next generation of molecular separation technologies aiming to provide extreme, exponentially large selectivity combined with high flow rates. No such pores have been demonstrated experimentally. Here we study gas transport through individual graphene pores created by low intensity exposure to low kV electrons. Helium and hydrogen permeate easily through these pores whereas larger species such as xenon and methane are practically blocked. Permeating gases experience activation barriers that increase quadratically with molecules’ kinetic diameter, and the effective diameter of the created pores is estimated as ∼2 angstroms, about one missing carbon ring. Our work reveals stringent conditions for achieving the long sought-after exponential selectivity using porous two-dimensional membranes and suggests limits on their possible performance.