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Hydroxy Channels–Adaptive Pathways for Selective Water Cluster Permeation

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posted on 26.02.2021, 15:36 by Li-Bo Huang, Arthur Hardiagon, Istvan Kocsis, Cristina-Alexandra Jegu, Mihai Deleanu, Arnaud Gilles, Arie van der Lee, Fabio Sterpone, Marc Baaden, Mihail Barboiu
Artificial water channels (AWCs) are known to selectively transport water, with ion exclusion. Similarly to natural porins, AWCs encapsulate water wires or clusters, offering continuous and iterative H-bonding that plays a vital role in their stabilization. Herein, we report octyl-ureido-polyol AWCs capable of self-assembly into hydrophilic hydroxy channels. Variants of ethanol, propanediol, and trimethanol are used as head groups to modulate the water transport permeabilities, with rejection of ions. The hydroxy channels achieve a single-channel permeability of 2.33 × 108 water molecules per second, which is within the same order of magnitude as the transport rates for aquaporins. Depending on their concentration in the membrane, adaptive channels are observed in the membrane. Over increased concentrations, a significant shift occurs, initiating unexpected higher water permeation. Molecular simulations probe that spongelike or cylindrical aggregates can form to generate transient cluster water pathways through the bilayer. Altogether, the adaptive self-assembly is a key feature influencing channel efficiency. The adaptive channels described here may be considered an important milestone contributing to the systematic discovery of artificial water channels for water desalination.