Complete steric exclusion of ions and proton transport through confined monolayer water.


School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. [Email] [Email]


It has long been an aspirational goal to create artificial structures that allow fast permeation of water but reject even the smallest hydrated ions, replicating the feat achieved by nature in protein channels (e.g., aquaporins). Despite recent progress in creating nanoscale pores and capillaries, these structures still remain distinctly larger than protein channels. We report capillaries made by effectively extracting one atomic plane from bulk crystals, which leaves a two-dimensional slit of a few angstroms in height. Water moves through these capillaries with little resistance, whereas no permeation could be detected even for such small ions as Na+ and Cl- Only protons (H+) can diffuse through monolayer water inside the capillaries. These observations improve our understanding of molecular transport at the atomic scale.