Monday, July 2, 2012

Graphene... is there anything it cannot do?



Desalination might sound boring, but it’s super important. Around 97% of the planet’s water is saltwater and therefore unpotable, and while you can remove the salt from the water, the current methods of doing so are laborious and expensive. Graphene stands to change all that by essentially serving as the world’s most awesomely efficient filter. If you can increase the efficiency of desalination by two or three orders of magnitude (that is to say, make it 100 to 1,000 times more efficient) desalination suddenly becomes way more attractive as a way to obtain drinking water. 
Desalination works exactly as you might expect; you run water through a filter with pores small enough to block the salt and not the water. It’s a process called reverse osmosis. The issue is that the thicker your filter is, the less efficient the process is going to be. If you know anything about graphene, you know where this is going. Graphene sheets are one atom thick. It’s sort of a best case scenario. Because it’s nanoporous and so insanely thin, it can let water (but not salt) through it without requiring the comparatively high levels of pressure that current filters do.

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