Scientists have discovered a new way to get drinkable water to those who need it most.
In research published in the Nature Nanotechnology journal, a group of scientists from the U.K. detail how they created a membrane ‘sieve’ out of graphene – an ultra-thin sheet of carbon atoms – that was able to remove salt from seawater and render it potable.
They say this desalination process – which they accomplished by manipulating the size of the pores in the membranes to allow common salts to filter through the material – could make way for more affordable water filtration systems in the developing world.
"Realization of scalable membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale is a significant step forward and will open new possibilities for improving the efficiency of desalination technology," said Rahul Nair, professor of material physics at the University of Manchester.
This is the first time scientists have managed to remove common salts using the graphene filtering process.
"This is the first clear-cut experiment in this regime. We also demonstrate that there are realistic possibilities to scale up the described approach and mass produce graphene-based membranes with required sleeve sizes," Nair added.
The United Nations has predicted that by 2025, 14 percent of the world’s population will be faced with water scarcity thanks to climate change. The scientists hope their discovery will allow for new technologies to become accessible to countries that can’t afford larger, more complex filtration systems.