Skip to main content

Could a graphene filter be the key to helping us drink seawater?

graphene filter
luchschen / 123RF
Science may soon make the seas accessible to us, insofar as drinking water is concerned. According to a new study released in Nature Nanotechnology, we may soon be able to desalinate and purify water more easily with a graphene filter. Thanks to the work of an international team of scientists, including researchers from the University of Manchester, Shinshu University in Japan, and Penn State’s Center for Atomically Thin Multifuctional Coatings (ATOMIC), we now have a “sturdy and practical membrane for clean water solutions as well as protein separation, wastewater treatment, and pharmaceutical and food industry applications.”

As it stands, around 1.2 billion people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water, but making use of readily available seawater could be a viable fix. However, “Current desalination methods are energy intensive and produce adverse environmental impact,” wrote Ram Devanathan a researcher at the Energy and Environment Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Furthermore, energy production consumes large quantities of water and creates wastewater that needs to be treated with further energy input.” A membrane, however, could address these issues.

In essence, the graphene membrane is a sieve that allows certain molecules to go through, while keeping others out. The membrane was created by modifying graphene oxide membranes and the result is a filter that effectively filters out the salt from otherwise impure drinking water.

“Our dream is to create a smart membrane that combines high flow rates, high efficiency, long lifetime, self-healing, and eliminates bio and inorganic fouling in order to provide clean water solutions for the many parts of the world where clean water is scarce,” Mauricio Terrones, a professor of physics, chemistry, and materials science and engineering at Penn State, said. “This work is taking us in that direction.”

In initial tests, scientists found that their membrane was capable of keeping out 85 percent of salt, and while that is not quite pure enough for drinking purposes, it is good enough for agricultural use. Similarly, the membrane was capable of keeping out 96 percent of dye molecules, which are extremely polluting.

The team is not quite done, however. Further research is needed to ensure that this new membrane is a scalable solution and is inexpensive enough to be used by those who need it the most.

Editors' Recommendations

Lulu Chang
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Fascinated by the effects of technology on human interaction, Lulu believes that if her parents can use your new app…
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer
woman-in-bed-wearing-twilight-apollo-on-ankle

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more