Applicable to a broad range of scientific disciplines, selective sieving is a technique used in order to separate small molecules from one another.
Most notably, Dr Boya explains that ionic and molecular sieving is useful for, “desalination, water filtration, chemical separation, dialysis, bio-analytics and [even] sensing technologies”. She studies the technique of sieving products based upon their relative sizes, and her research focuses on innovative ways to do so via atomic capillaries.
Dr Boya has developed “a novel architecture of atomically smooth capillaries” that capitalises upon the beneficial characteristics of 2D-atomic crystals in order to construct channels for selectivity. By exploiting both their atomic flatness and atomic thinness, she is able to stack crystals on top of one another to build unique structures.
In the already established field of nano capillaries, this project is revolutionary. Since Dr Boya is able to select the 2D-crystals that she wishes to use for each capillary, she has unprecedented control over their chemical and physical properties. This includes height, surface smoothness, hydrophilicity and more. As Dr Boya explains, however, “a wider significance and…innovative aspect is the ability to make dense arrays of short (submicron) capillaries covering mm-size areas. [This increases] the flow by many orders of magnitude, which can be of commercial interest; for example, nanofiltration.”
As a current Royal Society University Research Fellow, Dr Boya aims to continue in academia in order to expand her research and obtain a permanent position.