Catch News reported that according to research coming from the University of Manchester, membranes made from graphene can act as a sieve to separate protons from heavier nuclei of hydrogen isotope deuterium.
According to the publication:
Researchers tested whether deuterons – nuclei of deuterium – can pass through graphene and its sister material boron nitride. They fully expected deuterons to easily pass through, as existing theory did not predict any difference in permeation for both isotopes.
The researchers found that deuterons were not only effectively sieved out by their one atom thick membranes, but were sieved with a high separation efficiency. The discovery makes monolayers of graphene and boron nitride attractive as separation membranes to enrich mixtures of deuterium and tritium.
Furthermore, the researchers showed that the separation is fully scalable. Using chemical-vapour-deposited (CVD) graphene, they built centimetre-sized devices to effectively pump out hydrogen from a mixture of deuterium and hydrogen.
Marcelo Lozada-Hidalgo, a postdoctoral researcher at University of Manchester said:
This is really the first membrane shown to distinguish between subatomic particles, all at room temperature.
Now that we showed that it is a fully scalable technology, we hope it will quickly find its way to real applications.