Graphene Sieve Makes Seawater Drinkable

Anthony Cuthbertson

Scientists have created a sieve capable of removing salt from seawater using the “wonder material” graphene.

Researchers at the University of Manchester developed a graphene membrane to desalinate water and make it drinkable, offering the promise of easy and accessible potable water for millions of people around the world.

A study published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology describes how the filtration system works by precisely controling the membrane’s pore size to sieve common salts out of salty water.

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“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 Professor Rahul Nair.

“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 sieve sizes.”

graphene application salt water desalinate

A graphene-based membrane could be used in countries that do not have the financial infrastructure to fund large desalination plants. University of Manchester

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Graphene, first created in a laboratory by researchers at the University of Manchester in 2004, consists of carbon atoms in a honeycomb lattice that is 200-times stronger than steel, more conductive than copper and as flexible as rubber.

The remarkable properties of the one-atom thick material mean it has been heralded for its vast potential and widely described as a “wonder material.”

Potential applications include indoor solar cells, carbon-reinforced silk and “tattoos” capable of testing and treating diabetes.

“For many years, people have been looking for graphene applications that will make it into mainstream use,” Professor Ravi Silva, a graphene researcher at the University of Surrey in the U.K., told Newsweek in an interview last year. “We are finally now getting to the point where these applications are going to happen.”

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