Freshwater may not be so precious in the near future- New desalination tech

“Filling cup with saltwater” Credit: myoutdoorslife


71% of the Earth’s surface is water, yet around 700 million people still suffer from water scarcity. By 2030, almost half of the world’s population will be living in high water-stressed areas. While world population is projected to reach 8.3 billion in the same year.

This means there are less clean water to share between more people. Naturally, people are worried about future water security. Clean drinking water is one of our most scarce resources, but scientists may have found a solution to change that.

A group of scientists at the University of Manchester, created a membrane using graphene oxide, it is capable of removing 97% of salt from seawater. Graphene is a thin sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a special wafer-like formation.

Scientists can also control the pore size in the membrane precisely. “When the capillary size is around one nanometre, which is very close to the size of the water molecule, those molecules form a nice interconnected arrangement like a train,” said Rahul Nair, lead researcher of this project.

This specific nanotech is known as graphene oxide membrane, GOM for short.

Why should I care?

To meet world water demands by 2030, GOM should be our choice of infrastructure upgrade, construct more desalination plants and retrofit current 16,000 plants worldwide, because they are using a polymer-based process that is inefficient and expensive.

Unlike potable reuse water that has to go through lots of processing and treatments to make it clean, the image of drinking the stuff you flushed down the drains isn’t very nice, right?

GOM is safe for your health and our environment

It has no health effects, there is zero residue from GOM in the water after filtration. GOM is basically Carbon, the second most abundant element in the human body, so it is natural.

GOM can remove more impurities than water purification filters on the market, typically have a pore size of 0.02 micron, GOM’s is much smaller at around one nanometre, so effective at physically stopping bacteria, virus and protozoa.

What we don’t know about GOM

GOM still holds a lot of uncertainty. Nair and his team still need to demonstrate the durability of the membranes under prolonged contact with seawater, resistant to salts and biological material and not affect water quality produced. In addition, how to produce GOM inexpensively at industrial scales.

What can I do about it?

To support the work by Rahul Nair and his team, you can send them an email, spread awareness by sharing this article on social media and with your friends.

Research is expensive, you can help support for federal funding of nanotech, through your votes of your local senate, or talk to your local government about implementing GOM desalination in the future.

Graphene oxide membrane may have important contributions to the world, so join this movement.

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