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Tiny channels carry big information
Date:12/14/2010

specific size and geometry on a silicon-on-glass die. To prevent the channel from collapsing under the strong electrostatic forces of the anodic bonding process, a thick (500 nm) oxide layer was deposited onto the glass substrate.

"This deposition step and the following bonding step guaranteed successful channel sealing without collapsing," says Duan. "We also had to choose the right temperature, voltage and time period to ensure perfect bonding. I compare the process to cooking a steak, you need to choose the right seasoning as well as the right time and temperature. The deposition of the oxide layer was the right seasoning for us."

The nanometer-sized channels in transmembrane proteins are critical to controlling the flow of ions and molecules across the external and internal walls of a biological cell, which, in turn, are critical to many of the biological processes that sustain the cell. Like their biological counterparts, fluidic nanochannels could play critical roles in the future of fuel cells and batteries.

"Enhanced ion transport improves the power density and practical energy density of fuel cells and batteries," Duan says. "Although the theoretical energy density in fuel cells and batteries is determined by the active electrochemical materials, the practical energy density is always much lower because of internal energy loss and the usage of inactive components. Enhanced ion transport could reduce internal resistance in fuel cells and batteries, which would reduce the internal energy loss and increase the practical energy density."

The findings by Duan and Majumdar indicate that ion transport could be significantly enhanced in 2-nm hydrophilic nanostructures because of their geometrical confinements and high surface-charge densities. As an example, Duan cites the separator, the component placed between the between the cathode and the anode in batteries and fuel cells to prevent physical contact of the elec
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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