Minute pores at the opening to a cell can function as tiny bouncers that let in certain electrically charged atoms, that is, ions, but obstruct others. These “ion channels” function as acutely sensitive filters and have a significant role in biological functions such as firing of brain cells and muscle contraction.
In order for the right ions to be quickly transferred through the cell membrane, the minute channels depend on a complicated interplay between the ions and their surrounding molecules—specifically water—that have an attraction for the charged atoms. However, these molecular processes have conventionally been challenging to model, and hence to perceive, by means of computers or artificial structures.
At present, scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their collaborators have shown that nanoscale pores formed in layers of graphene (atomically thin carbon sheets well known for their conductivity and strength) can offer an uncomplicated model for the complicated functioning of ion channels. This model enables researchers to evaluate a number of characteristics in relation to the transport of ions. Moreover, graphene nanopores might eventually become viable with effective mechanical filters appropriate for processes such as recognizing defective DNA in genetic material and eliminating salt from oceanic water.
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Source: Azo Nano