WP1 : Foundations of thermodynamic driving: Theory

WP1 will address the fundamental challenges of phoresis. We will investigate the microscopic origin of thermodynamic driving and develop flexible molecular and mesoscale computational methods for the simulation of thermodynamic driving. We will use these concepts and computational tools to understand and analyse the systems and practical applications of the other WPs. Our bottom-up approach provides a systematic way to go beyond the state-of-theart macroscopic descriptions of phoresis to capture the effects of the molecular nature of solvent and solute, solute size, solute and surface specificity, solute flexibility, surface wettability and heterogeneity, fluctuations and correlations.

WP2: Foundations of thermodynamic driving: experiments

WP2 will provide fundamental understanding of phoretic transport at the nanoscale, using state-of-the-art (and unique worldwide) toolbox of nanofluidics. The microscopic mechanisms of Electro-/Diffusio-/Thermo- phoretic transport will be investigated within the first nanometres of surfaces, in individual nanotubes made of carbon, boronnitride and combination of both, as well as through 2D molecular sheets (graphene, h-BN). The potential of these new classes of nanomaterials for thermodynamic transport will be assessed. The application of nanoscale thermodynamic driving to fabricate new phoretic functionalities (diodes, transistors…) will be explored and quantified, as well as its application as alternative mechanism for transport and manipulation of binary mixtures and complex flows.

WP3: New ground-breaking avenues for blue energy harvesting and desalination

WP3 aims at harvesting phoretic transport in pre-screened nanomaterials to attain an industrially viable technology for osmotic power conversion, motivated by our recent discovery of the exceptional potential of boron-nitride nanotube in this context [Nature 494 455 (2013)], as well as alternative oxide materials, especially titanium-dioxide, that we have already identified (European Patent Application 15306346.6.). We target industrially scalable materials with cost competitiveness and suitable membrane proprieties. This WP focuses on bottom-up strategies to build membranes out of promising competitive materials studied at the level of nanopores, characterize their performances with respect to energy conversion and desalination, and address specifically the new physical issues associated to scale-up of nanofluidic transport. The outcome will be used as a feasibility assessment for further up-scaling and industrial transfer. SE will lead the technology transfer based on the pending patents.

WP4: Enhanced sensitivity of biomolecular separation and analysis

This WP will study the use of thermodynamic driving forces to identify, analyse and control the behaviour of proteins and their nanoscale complexes. A particular focus will be on understanding the interplay between size, charge and hydrophobicity on the nanoscale and microscale concentration gradients in diffusiophoresis. This WP will bring together theory and experiment to connect the phoretic mobility to the structure and sequence of proteins. Moreover, we will explore the use of phoretic effects in a new generation of analytical instrument in protein science.