A team of researchers from the University of Manchester developed a device which turns seawater into drinkable water. The miraculous machine uses graphene to remove the salt from seawater. The findings were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
This device has the potential to save millions of lives by providing them with clean water for drinking. It uses graphene as a primary means to perform the conversion. Actually, what the researchers used was a graphene oxide.
What is graphene and what is it good for?
This substance is an allotrope and it contains only one layer of atoms of carbon. These atoms are organized as a lattice in a hexagonal form. Thus, this formation allows it to have an incredible strength and to conduct electricity.
However, it is quite difficult to impregnate surfaces with graphene. First of all, this is given by the fact that it is hard to manufacture large quantities of graphene. There is an alternative, though. Graphene oxide is easier to produce, through a simple process of oxidation performed in a laboratory.
Scientists can produce it as a solution on a porous material. Then they can use the material as a membrane. Before using it, they had to make sure the graphene is permeable. This was possible only if they opened several holes in it, but this mission was not devoid of challenges.
If the holes were too big, they risked that the salt could pass through. Thus, they made sure that the graphene membrane does not expand when put into water, and they were able to control the quantity of salt which passed through it.
Providing clean drinkable water for people
It is estimated that around 14 percent of the population of the globe would have scarce clean water. Scientists hope that this membrane might help these people have an easier access to clean water for drinking. They aim that this device would be able to reduce this number and eventually offer clean water for everybody.
This is the first time when researchers succeed to determine the size of pores in a porous membrane, and this only for the purpose of converting salt water in drinkable water. However, there is still much to do until they can produce the device on an industrial scale and until they make sure it is functional and efficient.
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