Facilitated transport of small molecules and ions for energy-efficient membranes†
In nature, the biological membrane can selectively transport essential small molecules/ions through facilitated diffusion via carrier proteins. Intrigued by this phenomenon and principle, membrane researchers have successfully employed synthetic carriers and carrier-mediated reversible reactions to enhance the separation performance of synthetic membranes. However, the existing facilitated transport membranes as well as the relevant facilitated transport theories have scarcely been comprehensively reviewed in the literature. This tutorial review primarily covers the two aspects of facilitated transport theories: carrier-mediated transport mechanisms and facilitated transport chemistries, including the design and fabrication of facilitated transport membranes. The applications of facilitated transport membranes in energy-intensive membrane processes (gas separation, pervaporation, and proton exchange membrane fuel cells) have also been discussed. Hopefully, this review will provide guidelines for the future research and development of facilitated transport membranes with high energy efficiency.