Graphene-embedded nanomaterial filters filthy water into drinking water

graphene filter water biofoam
Washington University in St. Louis
The wonder material graphene has been celebrated for its strength, lightness, flexibility, and versatility of applications. Last year, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study suggested that graphene could bring infrared night vision to everyday devices such as laptops and smartphones. In April, scientists at the Max-Planck Institute of Intelligent Systems designed graphene-based, remote-controlled nanobots to suck up lead contamination in water.

Last month, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis published a paper detailing their development of a graphene oxide-based nanomaterial to effectively filter filthy water into drinking water.

Graphene oxide — an inexpensive, paper-like form of graphene — is well-known for its ability to absorb light and convert it to heat, making it ideal for tasks that involve harvesting sunlight, according to Srikanth Singamaneni, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and the corresponding author of the paper.

Singamaneni and his team created a two-layered biofoam by combining bacteria-produced cellulose and graphene oxide. The bottom layer consists of a pure nanocellulose network. The top layer is composed of a nanocellulose fiber network that’s embedded with graphene oxide flakes.

“When this bilayered foam-like material is suspended on dirty water, water is [sucked up] by the pure cellulose layer at the bottom — just like a sponge — and brought to the top surface,” Singamaneni told Digital Trends.

“Light shining on the top surface is converted to heat by the graphene oxide, which causes water to evaporate. The process is highly efficient as the heat is not dissipated into the bulk water and confined to the surface where evaporation occurs. The resulting fresh water can be easily collected from the top of the foam.”

The researchers envisage their novel material being used to filter tons of water in developing countries that receive sufficient sunlight for the light-absorption-to-heat-conversion mechanism to occur. But, before that happens, they’ll have to scale the material up and run a few additional tests.

“The next step in this research is to integrate this novel material into a device that can condense and collect fresh water and demonstrate the whole process at a pilot scale,” Singamaneni said. “We are also optimizing the graphene oxide content and investigating other designs of hybrid material,” including their use to boost solar energy harvesting devices.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Smart Home

DS3 Clean water-free swatches could be the future of cleaning products

DS3 Clean swatches were on display at CES 2019. The small swatches come in several types, including shampoo and toilet cleaner. They're great for travel, but their real impact is in how such supplies will be shipped and stored.

Snooze soundly anywhere you lay your head with the best sleeping bags

A proper sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a camping or backpacking trip. Here are our picks for the best sleeping bags on the market to help you choose the correct bag for any type of outdoor adventure.
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.