Tiny Graphene Membrane Creates “Supercharged Water Purification” In One Simple Step
By Kevin Samson
Fresh water supplies continue to be assaulted on multiple fronts. Front page news at the moment is the unfolding disaster in Cape Town, South Africa which could be completely without water by June. According to some, this is as much the result of politics as it is the result of a three-year drought.
At the same time, clearly man-made disasters like the corporate hoarding of fresh water is on the rise. At the heart of this initiative to make water a commodity has been Nestle, whose former CEO clearly stated that water supplies should be privatized and that the right to fresh, clean water is not an essential human right. One look at how this is manifesting in Mexico at the moment should make it clear who gets most severely penalized for this policy.
Moreover, it is estimated that nearly 1/3 of the planet’s population is directly threatened by unclean water. Finding a solution to this ongoing plague should be of paramount importance; it is for this reason that I have repeatedly focused on novel new ways that we can take back control over our water supply and ensure that it is as clean as possible (see here and here).
A new filtering technique might just hold the largest promise yet for being able to access even large bodies of water across the planet that have become terribly polluted. Australia’s Syndney Harbour is one such place. Comprising more than 10,000 acres at depths of up to 35 feet, the Harbour is so polluted that scientists saw it as the perfect challenge to test their research.
The system that scientists at CSIRO have created is called Graphair, named after the microscopic graphene film that developers say will stop pollutants completely in a single step, as opposed to the multi-stage process of most commercial filters. It even holds the promise for “treatment of seawater and industrial effluents.” In addition to being simpler and faster, it is also environmentally sound as it consists of renewable soybean oil.
Researchers further describe the significance of this promising new application:
The breakthrough potentially solves one of the great problems with current water filtering methods: fouling.
Over time chemical and oil based pollutants coat and impede water filters, meaning contaminants have to be removed before filtering can begin. Tests showed Graphair continued to work even when coated with pollutants.
Without Graphair, the membrane’s filtration rate halved in 72 hours.
When the Graphair was added, the membrane filtered even more contaminants (99 per cent removal) faster.
“This technology can create clean drinking water, regardless of how dirty it is, in a single step,” Dr Seo said.
“All that’s needed is heat, our graphene, a membrane filter and a small water pump. We’re hoping to commence field trials in a developing world community next year.”
Similar to other developments that I’ve covered, scaling up the technology remains a final barrier for distribution to the masses in desperate need of access to clean water. CSIRO is seeking industry partners. Let’s hope that their endeavor is successful, as they state that this system ultimately could be used for home filtration all the way to being integrated into city systems.
Have you come across other solutions to solve water shortages and purification? Please leave your information in the comment section below.
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This article republished with permission.