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Scientists at the University of Manchester have achieved the much sought after development of making graphene membranes capable of filtering common salts.
The new research demonstrates the real potential of providing clean water to millions of people struggling to access adequate sources of clean water.
The new findings, made by a group of scientists from the University of Manchester, in the United Kingdom, are detailed this Monday in an article published in the journal "Nature Nanotechnology." Previously, graphene oxide membranes have shown interesting potential for gas separation and water filtration.
Graphene oxide membranes developed at the National Graphene Institute have already demonstrated the potential to filter out small nanoparticles, organic molecules, and even large salts. However, until now they could not be used to screen common salts used in desalination technologies, which require even smaller screens.
Previous research at the University of Manchester found that if submerged in water, graphene oxide membranes inflate slightly and smaller salts flow through the membrane along with water, but larger ions or molecules are blocked. .
The Manchester-based group has now developed these graphene membranes and has found a strategy to prevent the membrane from swelling when exposed to water. The pore size in the membrane can be precisely controlled so that it can sift the common salts of salt water and make it safe to drink.
As the effects of climate change continue to reduce water supplies to modern cities, rich countries are investing in desalination technologies. After severe flooding in California, United States, major wealthy cities are also increasingly looking for alternative water solutions.
When common salts dissolve in water, they always form a "shell" of water molecules around the salt molecules, allowing the tiny pores in the graphene oxide membranes to prevent the salt from flowing along with the water. The water molecules are able to pass through the membrane barrier and flow with an abnormal speed which is ideal for the application of these membranes for desalination.
A revolutionary technology for global water filtration
Professor Rahul Nair, University of Manchester, explains: "Making expandable membranes with a uniform pore size down to the atomic scale is a significant step forward and will open up new possibilities to improve the efficiency of desalination technology. This is it. the first clear experiment in this regime. We also show that there are realistic possibilities to expand the described approach and mass-produce graphene-based membranes with the required sizes. "
The authors of the joint research are Drs Jijo Abraham and Vasu Siddeswara Kalangi. Abraham underlines: "The developed membranes are not only useful for desalination, but the atomic scale adjustment of the pore size also opens up new opportunities to manufacture on-demand membranes with filtration capable of filtering ions according to their sizes."
By 2025, the United Nations (UN) expects that 14 percent of the world's population will have water shortage problems. This technology has the potential to revolutionize water filtration around the world, particularly in countries that cannot afford large-scale desalination plants.
It is expected that graphene oxide membrane systems can be built on smaller scales, making this technology accessible to countries that do not have the financial infrastructure to finance large plants without compromising the yield of produced fresh water.