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Ultrathin silicon membranes for wearable dialysis.


The development of wearable or implantable technologies that replace center-based hemodialysis (HD) hold promise to improve outcomes and quality of life for patients with ESRD. A prerequisite for these technologies is the development of highly efficient membranes that can achieve high toxin clearance in small-device formats. Here we examine the application of the porous nanocrystalline silicon (pnc-Si) to HD. pnc-Si is a molecularly thin nanoporous membrane material that is orders of magnitude more permeable than conventional HD membranes. Material developments have allowed us to dramatically increase the amount of active membrane available for dialysis on pnc-Si chips. By controlling pore sizes during manufacturing, pnc-Si membranes can be engineered to pass middle-molecular-weight protein toxins while retaining albumin, mimicking the healthy kidney. A microfluidic dialysis device developed with pnc-Si achieves urea clearance rates that confirm that the membrane offers no resistance to urea passage. Finally, surface modifications with thin hydrophilic coatings are shown to block cell and protein adhesion.