Ion selectivity of graphene nanopores

Nat Commun. 2016 Apr 22;7:11408. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11408.


As population growth continues to outpace development of water infrastructure in many countries, desalination (the removal of salts from seawater) at high energy efficiency will likely become a vital source of fresh water. Due to its atomic thinness combined with its mechanical strength, porous graphene may be particularly well-suited for electrodialysis desalination, in which ions are removed under an electric field via ion-selective pores. Here, we show that single graphene nanopores preferentially permit the passage of K(+) cations over Cl(-) anions with selectivity ratios of over 100 and conduct monovalent cations up to 5 times more rapidly than divalent cations. Surprisingly, the observed K(+)/Cl(-) selectivity persists in pores even as large as about 20 nm in diameter, suggesting that high throughput, highly selective graphene electrodialysis membranes can be fabricated without the need for subnanometer control over pore size.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anions / isolation & purification*
  • Cations, Divalent / isolation & purification*
  • Cations, Monovalent / isolation & purification*
  • Dialysis
  • Drinking Water / chemistry
  • Electrochemical Techniques
  • Graphite / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Ion Exchange
  • Kinetics
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Porosity
  • Salinity
  • Seawater / chemistry*
  • Water Purification / instrumentation
  • Water Purification / methods*


  • Anions
  • Cations, Divalent
  • Cations, Monovalent
  • Drinking Water
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Graphite