Products built as if they were pharmaceuticals—characterized by atomic precision at the nanoscale—will enter the market within the next few years. These initial products will range from medical devices which greatly improve patient health while also reducing medical costs, to environmentally-oriented products anticipated to make significant contributions to solving the world water crisis, reducing waterborne disease in developing countries and remediating pollution.
A novel platform technology based on the MNT principles of building materials with atomic precision enables the development of these products. The products are designed to be characterized by profound improvements in performance and cost by virtue of performing more precisely and powerfully than current products derived from bulk, non-precise construction processes, and as well as by having significantly lower energy requirements. These benefits are achieved by following a biomimetic strategy of how the human body performs complex separation and filtration operations, combined with the application of engineering principles to achieve efficiencies which go beyond those found in nature.
Porous monomolecular membranes have been prepared which were designed to provide specific solute rejection. These one molecule thick membranes (0.5-5nm thick) can be thought of as two dimensional arrays of orifices. Unlike pores in a conventional membrane, these orifices offer no impedance to flow. Therefore, filtration occurs in an unprecedented ultra-low energy regime.
The orifices have been designed to reject specific molecular species based on the species solvation characteristics. Orifices can be precisely controlled for shape, size, charge and other characteristics such as surface properties. This offers a level of control in filtration which is unprecedented.
The strategy of molecular design of building blocks that self-assemble into macro scale materials has lead to the design of a small artificial organ which duplicates the human kidney's complex filtration and separation process.
Kidney failure is a rapidly growing disease that usually means a short and painful life to the patient, and places a major financial burden on society. In 2004, approximately 1.5 million people worldwide are being treated with dialysis, and an estimated $80 billion is spent on their care. The Human Nephron Filter (or HNF-1) is a wearable 'artificial kidney' whose function is not dialysis, but rather the duplication of essential kidney filtration functions. By producing the same filtration results as a human kidney, nephrologists believe this should produce results comparable to a kidney transplant, returning patients to robust good health and reducing medical costs.
Synthesis and laboratory scale preparation of the nanomembrane for renal use has been completed. Manufacturing methodologies are now being developed.
This same strategy for membrane creation has also led to the design of a membrane expected to be useful for a wide range of water purification and remediation applications. Due to orifice-like nature of the membrane, filtration should be achieved at what is believed to be the thermodynamic minimum. The combination of highest possible purity, ultra small footprint and low energy cost have significant implications for areas such as pollution remediation, industry and medicine's requirements for high purity water, provision of potable water in challenging developing world environments and areas where water shortage causes geopolitical stress.
Biophiltre LLC and Agua Via LLC
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