You may have noticed we’re fans of graphene around here, and now we have another reason to love graphene: it may revolutionize water desalination. Graphene — a crystalline, single layer of carbon atoms pulled from inexpensive, abundant graphite — has some awesome properties. It’s the thinnest material we’ve discovered so far, and it’s stronger than a similar thickness of anything else. It’s even stronger than old Nokia cell phones. Graphene is also the best known conductor of heat and electricity, and it’s the stiffest yet most ductile material tested so far. It’s all these features that earned Konstantin Novoselov and frog levitator Andre Geim the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their graphene experiments.
We also recently learned graphene oxide filters could be used to strengthen booze because they were superpermeable to water molecules yet blocked molecules which were smaller than water for reasons we didn’t quite understand. At the time, the aforementioned frog levitator Andre Geim commented, “The properties are so unusual that it is hard to imagine that they cannot find some use in the design of filtration, separation or barrier membranes and for selective removal of water.”
That frog levitator was right. Researchers at MIT now estimate graphene could be used to increase the efficiency of water desalination by 100 to 1000-fold.
Around 97% of the planet’s water is saltwater and therefore unpotable, and while you can remove the salt from the water, the current methods of doing so are laborious and expensive. Graphene stands to change all that by essentially serving as the world’s most awesomely efficient filter. [Geekosystem]
We’re not quite ready to mass produce sufficiently sturdy graphene filters for desalination, but we’re getting there. That is, if we don’t decide to use the filters for making our booze stronger instead. Gotta have priorities.