By Dawn Levy
Less than 1 percent of Earthâ€™s water is drinkable. Removing salt and other minerals from our biggest available source of waterâ€”seawaterâ€”may help satisfy a growing global population thirsty for fresh water for drinking, farming, transportation, heating, cooling, and industry.Â But desalination is an energy-intensive process, which concerns those wanting to expand its application.
Now,Â a team of experimentalists led by the U.S. Department of Energyâ€™s Oak Ridge National LaboratoryÂ has demonstrated an energy-efficient desalination technology that uses a porous membrane made of strong, slim grapheneâ€”a carbon honeycomb one atom thick. The results areÂ publishedÂ in the March 23 advance online issue ofÂ Nature Nanotechnology.
â€œOur work is a proof of principle thatÂ demonstrates how youÂ can desalinate saltwater using free-standing, porous graphene,â€ said Shannon Mark Mahurin of ORNLâ€™s Chemical Sciences Division, who co-led the study withÂ Ivan VlassioukÂ in ORNLâ€™s Energy and Transportation Science Division.
â€œItâ€™s a huge advance,â€ said Vlassiouk, pointing out a wealth of water travels through the porous graphene membrane. â€œThe flux through the current graphene membranes was at least an order of magnitude higher than (that through) state-of-the-art reverse osmosis polymeric membranes.â€ [Read more…]