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A Brilliant Innovation by an Indian American for Water Purification, DNA Recognition & Much More

An Indian-American has developed a membrane which can help in better purification of water, and is useful in many other applications. The membrane transports water at a very high speed.

Manish Kumar, an Indian-American working as the assistant professor of chemical engineering at Pennsylvania State University, has developed a membrane that can be helpful in better purification of water.

It is a self-assembling synthetic membrane and its functions include better drug delivery, gas separation, water purification and DNA recognition, which are done by transporting a billion water molecules per channel per second.


Photo Credit: Flickr 

The biometric membrane is basically made of fat molecules and protein appended molecules. These molecules form water channels and the water is then transferred at the rate of natural membranes. The membrane self assembles into two dimensional structures with parallel channels. Thus the most obvious use of the technology, according to Manish, is to make very effective membranes for water purification.

“Nature does things very efficiently and transport proteins are amazing machines present in biological membranes. They have functions that are hard to replicate in synthetic systems,” said Manish.

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Aquaporins are natural water channel proteins, and there have been earlier attempts to imitate their working. This second generation synthetic water channel is an improvement on the earlier work. It is a lot more stable and is easier to manufacture.

According to Manish, they were surprised to see the rate of water transport being as high as a billion water molecules per channel per second. The development was reported in the recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

These channels are better than the first generation artificial water channels developed up till now. They can be used for a large number of applications because the channels form densely packed arrays automatically. Hence they can be put to use in many fields.

“My work focuses on incorporating membrane proteins into synthetic cell membrane analogs. It is my hope that this strategy could provide us membranes with tailored properties for applications in energy production, energy-efficient desalination, aqueous contaminant removal, contaminant recognition and isolation and rapid response sensors,” said Manish Kumar here.

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