Artificial water channels enable fast and selective water permeation through water-wire networks

Woochul Song, Himanshu Joshi, Ratul Chowdhury, Joseph S. Najem, Yue xiao Shen, Chao Lang, Codey B. Henderson, Yu Ming Tu, Megan Farell, Megan E. Pitz, Costas D. Maranas, Paul S. Cremer, Robert J. Hickey, Stephen A. Sarles, Jun li Hou, Aleksei Aksimentiev, Manish Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Artificial water channels are synthetic molecules that aim to mimic the structural and functional features of biological water channels (aquaporins). Here we report on a cluster-forming organic nanoarchitecture, peptide-appended hybrid[4]arene (PAH[4]), as a new class of artificial water channels. Fluorescence experiments and simulations demonstrated that PAH[4]s can form, through lateral diffusion, clusters in lipid membranes that provide synergistic membrane-spanning paths for a rapid and selective water permeation through water-wire networks. Quantitative transport studies revealed that PAH[4]s can transport >109 water molecules per second per molecule, which is comparable to aquaporin water channels. The performance of these channels exceeds the upper bound limit of current desalination membranes by a factor of ~104, as illustrated by the water/NaCl permeability–selectivity trade-off curve. PAH[4]’s unique properties of a high water/solute permselectivity via cooperative water-wire formation could usher in an alternative design paradigm for permeable membrane materials in separations, energy production and barrier applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-79
Number of pages7
JournalNature nanotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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