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Published on February 19th, 2018 | by Steve Hanley


Graphene Filter Makes Polluted Water Drinkable In One Step

February 19th, 2018 by  

Last week, we reported on a breakthrough from researchers in Australia and the US that could make it possible to desalinize sea water inexpensively. The process involves a new class of materials called metal-organic frameworks that may also be able to extract minerals like lithium and gold from the oceans that surround us. One of the parties to that international research is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia’s premier research organization. CSIRO has also announced this week a new form of  graphene it says can filter polluted water and make it drinkable in one step.

Graphair water filter from CSIRO

Graphair can make water from Sydney Harbor drinkable in one step. Credit: CSIRO

According to a report by Engadget, CSIRO calls its new product Graphair. It is a combination of graphene film and nanometer-size channels that allow water to pass but block pollutants. “All that’s needed is heat, our graphene, a membrane filter and a small water pump. We’re hoping to commence field trials in a developing world community next year,” says Dr. Dong Han Seo, who heads the research. His team is now looking for commercial partners to help scale up the technology. It is also working on other applications for Graphair, such as desalinizing seawater and removing industrial effluents from waste water.

Part of the exciting news about Graphair is that is manufactured from renewable soybean oil, which makes it quick and easy to produce in a process that is environmentally friendly. Most water filters are degraded by oil byproducts, which have to be removed before filtration can begin, but Graphair can remove those pollutants without clogging up and can do it faster than any other method.

Under normal circumstances, water purification involves several complex steps that require a considerable amount of energy, making it unsuitable for making purified drinking water in remote locations where access to energy is a problem. Graphair could work where other methods do not, bringing clean water to billions of people in need at minimal cost.

Safe drinking water is not as sexy as sending sending electric cars into deep space — unless you don’t have any. Then it becomes very important indeed. 

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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island and anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. His motto is, "Life is not measured by how many breaths we take but by the number of moments that take our breath away!" You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

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