Whether it’s conducting cheap electricity or making super strong nanotubes, graphene is the stuff that just keep bringing amazing new uses. And one of those uses is using a single atom thick sheet of graphene to filter salt out of seawater, resulting in only pure drinkable water.
Graphene is a combination of different forms of carbon – charcoal, graphite, carbon nanotubes, and fullerenes. It is most commonly depicted as a kind of chicken-wire structure, linked together by its bonds. And it is incredibly useful: it has been used in everything from solar cells to killing bacteria. Recently, MIT researchers have discovered that it can also desalinate water – at up to 3 times the efficiency of reverse osmosis.
The study poured water twice as salty as seawater through graphene sheets punctured with nanopores, or holes, of various sizes. These holes were then strengthened with hydrogen atoms and hydroxyl groups. The smaller nanopores were large enough for the water to escape, but too small for the salt molecules – using essentially the same system as reverse osmosis. However, because single-layer graphene is just one atom thick, it is much more efficient than current methods of reverse osmosis, which requires usage of much thicker filters. In fact, it was 1,000 times faster than the present available methods.
This technology won’t be available on an industrial scale for some time, but once it is, we’ll be able to drink the oceans dry.
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