[Phys.org]New membrane efficiently separates mirrored molecules

  • [2019-06-25]

    Prof. Liu Bo and colleagues at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) have developed a chiral separation membrane capable of capturing left-handed chiral molecules and releasing the right-handed counterpart using two-dimensional layered materials. The chiral membrane, showing a separation efficiency up to 89% towards limonene racemate, is expected to be put into industrial production. The research was published in Nature Communications on June 7.


    Illustration of the chiral membrane for selective permeation. Credit: LIU Bo's team

    In the classic Chinese tale Journey to the West, no one could tell the difference between the real Monkey King and his evil twin Six Ears, thus causing much confusion. Only the Buddha could distinguish the real Monkey King from the fake, ensuring that the Monkey King could continue his journey.


    Among biomolecules, many are inseparable from each other—just like the Monkey King and Six Ears. These are the so-called chiral isomers (enantiomers), which have identical chemical formulas but rotate in space in opposite directions. They are mirror images of each other and are non-superposable.


    Chiral sites (trees)are inserted between two layers of graphite-phase carbon nitride (cloud layers). The 'trees' can catch the left-handed molecules (Six Ears) while allowing the right-handed ones (Monkey King) to be transported away, thus resulting in high separation efficiency. Credit: CUI Jie


    However, despite their chemical similarity, enantiomers may function very differently. For example, levamlodipine can treat high blood pressure while dextroamphetamine has no such effect. In the biopharmaceutical process, chiral isomers are often produced at the same time, so the mixture must be separated. However, left-handed and right-handed molecules are as difficult to identify and separate as the Monkey King and Six Ears.

    More information: Yang Wang et al, Graphite phase carbon nitride based membrane for selective permeation, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10381-z

    Journal information: Nature Communications

    Provided by Chinese Academy of Sciences




Highlight of USTC

On May 11, the Nature Publishing Group released Nature Publishing Index 2010 China, remarking “a dramatic rise in the quality of research being published by China”. University of Science and Technology of China is ranked 3rd of TOP 10 Institutions in Index 2010 China.


This article came from News Center of USTC.