Designing the topology of ion nano-channels in the mesophases of amphiphilic wedge-shaped molecules
The wedge-shaped amphiphiles bearing sulfonate groups at the tip of the wedge are prone to form ion nano-channels upon exposure to a humid atmosphere. During swelling, water molecules preferentially accumulate in polar regions of the system resulting in the formation of a lyotropic phase. In this work, the details of the structure formation processes occurring upon swelling in water vapour, including determination of the size and topology of the ion nano-channels, are explored. The electron density profiles across the channel are obtained from the fits of the X-ray scattering data with two- and three-phase structural models the applicability of which is critically analysed. The results show that the ion channel size correlates not only with water uptake but also with the molecular architecture such as the structure of the rigid molecular fragment bearing a polar group. These findings can help optimising the ion transport for development of ion-selective membranes.