Nearly 97% of the Earth’s water is unpotable salt water. With the current expensive and energy guzzling nature of desalination, fresh water is becoming increasingly difficult to come by.
“The scarcity of fresh water resources and the need for additional water supplies is already critical in many arid regions of the world and will be increasingly important in the future.” -U.S. Geological Survey
Scientists at MIT have fine-tuned a computer simulation that would allow graphene, the strongest material currently known to man, to serve as the perfect low-cost, low-energy filter to harvest seawater as a consumable resource.
Desalination Through Reverse Osmosis
Water desalination is most commonly achieved via reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis is achieved by removing large molecules from a solution by pressuring that solution through a membrane.
The MIT study looked to nanoporous graphene as the filtration membrane. Nanoporous graphene is an atom thick layer of graphite with filtration pores one billionth of a meter wide. These microscopic pores would welcome H2O but repel salt molecules.
The study suggests that graphene has the potential to increase the efficiency of desalination by two to three orders of magnitude (100-1000x), an incredible leap forward. If perfected, this method could solve the age old problem of affordably harvesting the ocean water that dominates our planet. Here’s a short video explanation from MIT.
It appears likely that graphene would be strong enough to withstand the extreme pressure associated with reverse osmosis water filtration. The biggest problem moving forward would be maintaining a consistent hole pattern in the graphene that would efficently enable the low-cost reverse osmosis. This is an issue we believe we can overcome.
Studying graphene and other elements stripped down to their most basic forms holds an incredible amount of promise for the future.
Looking ahead, Is it farfetched to think that with rising sea levels, we could offset the rise by extracting this water, purifying it, storing it, and putting it to use on land?
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