Researchers from the University of Manchester have developed a new method to turn seawater into drinking water using graphene.
The team manipulated the permeative properties of graphene oxide membranes by controlling the size of the membrane pores, resulting in the ability to prevent common salts passing through.
The previous challenge with common salts found in seawater has been their minuscule size.
Techcrunch.com reports, “The team at Manchester say they used physical confinement to control the interlayer spacing within graphene laminates immersed in water — enabling them to achieve what they describe as “accurate and tunable ion sieving”, and to provide a sieve size smaller than the diameters of hydrated ions.”
And while they found that permeation rates for the membranes decrease exponentially with decreasing sieve size, they also report that water transport itself is only “weakly affected” — meaning the filtered water flows through the membrane relatively quickly; an important factor if the aim is to develop affordable desalination technology.