Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Canberra, Australia (4E) – Australian scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) have developed a filtration technique using a graphene film with microscopic nano-channels that lets water pass through but not pollutants.
Using their own specially designed form of graphene called “Graphair,” CSIRO scientists have supercharged water purification, making it simpler, more effective and quicker.
The new filtering technique is so effective, water samples from Sydney Harbor were safe to drink after passing through the filter. The breakthrough research was published in the peer-reviewed open access scientific journal, Nature Communications.
CSIRO researchers were able to create a film with microscopic nano-channels that let water pass through, but stop pollutants. Graphair is also simpler, cheaper, faster and more environmentally friendly than graphene to make.
It consists of renewable soybean oil, more commonly found in vegetable oil. The breakthrough potentially solves one of the great problems with current water filtering methods: fouling.
Over time chemical and oil based pollutants coat and impede water filters, meaning contaminants have to be removed before filtering can begin. Tests showed Graphair continued to work even when coated with pollutants.
Without Graphair, the membrane’s filtration rate halved in 72 hours. When the Graphair was added, the membrane filtered even more contaminants (99 per cent removal) faster.
Although graphene is the world’s strongest material, it is usually water repellent.
“In Graphair we’ve found a perfect filter for water purification. It can replace the complex, time consuming and multi-stage processes currently needed with a single step,” said lead author, CSIRO scientist Dr Dong Han Seo.
Dr Seo and his colleagues took water samples from Sydney Harbour and ran it through a commercially available water filter, coated with Graphair. Researchers from QUT, the University of Sydney, UTS, and Victoria University then tested and analysed its water purification qualities.
“This technology can create clean drinking water, regardless of how dirty it is, in a single step,” said Dr Seo.
“All that’s needed is heat, our graphene, a membrane filter and a small water pump. We’re hoping to commence field trials in a developing world community next year.”
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