Extracorporeal blood therapies such as hemodialysis and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation supplement or replace organ function by the exchange of molecules between blood and another fluid across a semi-permeable membrane. Traditionally, these membranes are made of polymers with large surface areas and thicknesses on the scale of microns. Therapeutic gas exchange or toxin clearance in these devices occurs predominantly by diffusion, a process that is described by an inverse square law relating a distance to the average time a diffusing particle requires to travel that distance. As such, small changes in membrane thickness or other device dimensions can have significant effects on device performance — and large changes can cause dramatic paradigm shifts. In this work, we discuss the application of ultrathin nanoporous silicon membranes (nanomembranes) with thicknesses on the scale of tens of nanometers to diffusion-mediated medical devices. We discuss the theoretical consequences of nanomembrane medical devices for patients, analyzing several notable benefits such as reduced device size (enabling wearability, for instance) and improved clearance specificity. Special attention is paid to computational and analytical models that describe real experimental behavior, and that in doing so provide insights into the relevant parameters governing the devices.

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