Ultrafast Molecule Separation through Layered WS2 Nanosheet Membranes

Two-dimensional layered materials have joined in the family of size-selective separation membranes recently. Here, chemically exfoliated tungsten disulfide (WS2) nanosheets are assembled into lamellar thin films and explored as an ultrafast separation membrane for small molecules with size of about 3 nm. Layered WS2 membranes exhibit 5- and 2-fold enhancement in water permeance of graphene oxide membranes and MoS2 laminar membranes with similar rejection, respectively. To further increase the water permeance, ultrathin nanostrands are used as templates to generate more fluidic channel networks in the WS2 membrane. The water permeation behavior and separation performance in the pressure loading–unloading process reveal that the channels created by the ultrathin nanostrands are cracked under high pressure and result in a further 2-fold increase of the flux without significantly degrading the rejection for 3 nm molecules. This is supported by finite-element-based mechanical simulation. These layered WS2 membranes demonstrate up to 2 orders of magnitude higher separation performance than that of commercial membranes with similar rejections and hold the promising potential for water purification.