New supermembrane makes seawater drinkable faster than ever before

GDY membranes on porous hollow copper fibers. Photo credit: Nature Water (2023).

We all know that water is vital, but not everyone has enough clean water.

According to the United Nations, two to three billion people worldwide suffer from water shortages. One way to solve this problem is to convert seawater into clean drinking water.

This process is called seawater desalination and usually uses special filters called membranes to remove the salt from the water.

However, there is a problem: most of these membranes are slow and not very efficient. They can be easily damaged and consume a lot of energy.

So scientists have tried to develop better membranes that can purify more water faster and with less energy.

Good news! A team of researchers in China led by Prof. Zeng Gaofeng and Prof. Shi Guosheng have developed a new type of membrane that does just that.

To create these new filters, they used a special material called Graphdiyne. Their work was recently published in the scientific journal Nature Water.

What is special about Graphdiyne?

Graphdiyne is a material made of carbon atoms arranged in a unique way. The researchers created the membranes by joining these atoms together in a special chemical reaction.

They made the membrane so thin and provided it with tiny holes (nanopores) that it can filter water very quickly but still blocks the salt.

How good is this new membrane?

According to the scientists, very good! These new graphdiine membranes can remove nearly 100% of salt from seawater. Even better, they can purify water much faster than the membranes we use today. The new membranes weren’t just a little bit better; they were dramatically better.

They could handle salt water, which was even saltier than regular sea water, and water that contained other pollutants.

How does it work?

To put it simply, the researchers found that this new membrane filters so well because it only lets water molecules through and blocks everything else.

It’s like having an ultra-fast, ultra-intelligent bouncer in a club who only lets the good guys in and keeps all the bad guys out. This “bouncer” also works super fast, so lots of “good guys” (clean water) come in quickly.

What’s next?

This research doesn’t just help make better membranes to purify seawater. The method they used to make these graphdiine membranes could also be used to make other types of membranes.

These could be used in various industries, for example for energy conversion or even in medical treatments.

So this new membrane technology is a big deal. It could provide a faster, more efficient way to convert seawater into clean water.

Not only is this good news for the scientists who made it, but it could also be life-changing for the billions of people who don’t have enough clean water. It’s like unlocking the ocean’s potential to help solve one of the world’s biggest problems.

The study was published in Natural water.

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Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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