Scientists in Manchester have used the graphene membrane to filter common salts out of seawater, making it safe to drink.
Scientists in the UK have created a new membrane ‘sieve’, capable of transforming seawater into drinking water.
The sieve uses the world’s thinnest material graphene, a form of carbon, which is just one atom thick and 200 times stronger than steel.
The discovery by a team at the University of Manchester has the potential to revolutionise water filtration across the world, particularly in countries which cannot afford large-scale desalination plants.
While the graphene-oxide membrane had previously been used to filter out large salt crystals, scientists have now found a way to control the pore size of the membrane.
The discovery, which was announced in the Nature Nanotechnology journal, means the graphene layer can now sieve common salts out of salty water, making it safe to drink.
Professor Rahul Nair, who lead the team of researchers in Manchester, says it is a “significant step forward” that will “open new possibilities for improving the efficiency of desalination technology”.
Graphene was originally isolated by two researchers at the University of Manchester in 2004 – Professor Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, who later won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work.
By 2025, the UN expects that 14% of the world’s population will encounter water scarcity.
International development charity WaterAid says one in 10 people in the world live without safe water and 315,000 children aged under five die from diseases caused by dirty water every year – about one child every two minutes.