While there are desalination techniques to bring fresh water to everyone, they are currently highly expensive.
World Environment Day 2020: University of Manchester has found an affordable way to provide clean water! Nearly 1.2 billion people across the world are living in water scarcity, according to the University of Manchester, even as 71% of the surface of the Earth is covered by water. As much as 96.5% of the surface water on the Earth is in the oceans and is, hence, highly saline. While there are desalination techniques to bring fresh water to everyone, they are currently highly expensive.
Water scarcity: The Manchester University solution
Manchester University’s National Graphene Institute had earlier developed Graphene Oxide membranes to filter out organic particles and nanoparticles from the water. However, the common salts used in the desalination could not be sieved, the statement said, since the membranes would swell slightly when immersed in water, allowing smaller salt particles to flow with the water.
To tackle this problem, the NGI researchers came up with a technique to prevent the membrane from swelling, by enabling the size of the pores in the membrane to be controlled.
According to the university statement, the creation of scalable membranes with uniform pore size down to the atomic scale can improve the efficiency as well as lower the costs of desalination of water all over the world.
Graphene membrane scientist and member of the research team professor Rahul Nair was quoted as saying that this research is the first clear-cut experiment in this system. He further said the team showed realistic possibilities for the scaling up of the approach, and mass producing these membranes with the required sieve size.
Another research team member and PhD student Jijo Abraham said that these developed membranes would not only help in desalination, but would also be able to filter out ions according to their sizes, leading to developments in technologies for gas separation.
Water desalination: Impact of Manchester’s new technology
As per the University of Manchester statement, this technology would have two life-changing impact:
- It could allow countries which could not afford large-scale plants for desalination, and present them with an affordable solution to provide clean water to millions of people.
- The effects of climate change or natural disasters on the water supplies in modern cities can also be set off.