Biomimetic membranes for desalination

Biomimetic materials allow us to deploy biological components such as transport proteins and enzymes in a synthetic context. We demonstrated the potential for water treatment membranes that are orders of magnitude more efficient than existing products by incorporating biological water channel proteins (aquaporins) into lipid or polymer membranes. This applied research also led us to an unexpected insight into bacterial physiology, as we observed first in synthetic polymers and then in whole cells that Aquaporin Z is gated, with closure between pH 4-6.

Funding: NSF

Collaborators: Dr. Wolfgang Meier (University of Basel) & Dr. Mark Clark (Northwestern University)

Students & Visitors: Courtney Flores, Sania Ibragimova, Fabian Itel, Manish Kumar, Michelle Marincel Payne

Related publications:

Kumar, M., M. M. Payne, S. K. Poust and J. L. Zilles. 2012.  Polymer-Based Biomimetic Membranes for Desalination, in Biomimetic membranes for sensor and separation applications, edited by Claus Helix Nielsen

Kumar, M., M. Grzelakowski, J. Zilles, M. Clark, and W. Meier. 2007. Highly permeable polymeric membranes based on functional water channel protein incorporation. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 104(52):20719-20724. free full text through PubMed