Beyond nothingness in the formation and functional relevance of voids in polymer films

Falon C. Kalutantirige, Jinlong He, Lehan Yao, Stephen Cotty, Shan Zhou, John W. Smith, Emad Tajkhorshid, Charles M. Schroeder, Jeffrey S. Moore, Hyosung An, Xiao Su, Ying Li, Qian Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Voids—the nothingness—broadly exist within nanomaterials and impact properties ranging from catalysis to mechanical response. However, understanding nanovoids is challenging due to lack of imaging methods with the needed penetration depth and spatial resolution. Here, we integrate electron tomography, morphometry, graph theory and coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulation to study the formation of interconnected nanovoids in polymer films and their impacts on permeance and nanomechanical behaviour. Using polyamide membranes for molecular separation as a representative system, three-dimensional electron tomography at nanometre resolution reveals nanovoid formation from coalescence of oligomers, supported by coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations. Void analysis provides otherwise inaccessible inputs for accurate fittings of methanol permeance for polyamide membranes. Three-dimensional structural graphs accounting for the tortuous nanovoids within, measure higher apparent moduli with polyamide membranes of higher graph rigidity. Our study elucidates the significance of nanovoids beyond the nothingness, impacting the synthesis‒morphology‒function relationships of complex nanomaterials.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2852
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
Early online dateApr 11 2024
StateE-pub ahead of print - Apr 11 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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