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New Invention Turns Seawater into Drinking Water

4/5/17 8:58 AM

It's being called a major breakthrough in the global water crisis. Researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK have invented a graphene-based sieve that can turn seawater into clean drinking water. With early testing showing promising results, it could be the solution to the nearly 700 million people around the world without access to safe water.

Graphene is a thin layer of tightly packed carbon atoms bonded together in a hexagonal lattice pattern. Carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe, making graphene eco-friendly and a sustainable solution for endless applications. Graphene is also inexpensive to make in a laboratory, which means it would be affordable and easy to mass produce.

The idea of using graphene-oxide for filtration and desalination is nothing new, but the team at the University of Manchester was able to improve its efficiency. In the past, graphene-oxide membranes have been show to filter out small nanoparticles, organic molecules and large salts. Until now, they couldn't be used to filter out common salts because of the struggle to create smaller sieves.

The big issue at hand, when graphene-oxide is immersed in water they swell, allowing smaller salts to easily pass through along with water. To avoid the swelling, researchers used epoxy resin to build walls on either side of the membrane, creating holes tiny enough to filter out all common salts found in seawater.

Once salts are dissolved in water they form a "shell" of water molecule around them, allowing the salt to easily pass through the membrane. By reducing the holes in the membrane to one nanometer, which is about the size of a water molecule, the salt is blocked from flowing through along with the water.

The new sieve is not only good for filtration, but also desalination. This can come in great use with sea levels expected to rise by 1.5 inches by the year 2100 due to climate change. Around that same time, the United Nations predicts that 14% of the world's population will encounter water scarcity.

To help provide researchers with accuracy and reliability during research and development, MadgeTech offers a variety of data logging solutions to measure and record findings. To view all of the data loggers specifically for laboratory monitoring, click here.

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