You may have heard of graphene before as the material that is supposed to make everything better in the near future. Most of the promises are still a long way off, but one near term solution may actually end up benefiting us aquarists. Those wonderful scientists at MIT have come up with a way to use single layer nanoporous graphene as an ultra efficient water filter.
The original purpose behind the graphene study was to filter salt ions from water to make fresh water more available to the world, especially in areas where clean potable water is extremely hard to come by. Well, the same technology could easily be adapted to offer the same functionality as the reverse osmosis filtration systems we use today. The graphene sheet is riddled with holes that are large enough for water molecules to pass through, but blocks larger ions and molecules. Sounds a lot like our current RO membranes. The material is also chemically altered to make the pores hydrophilic, increasing the performance.
The research points to the possibility of a 2-3 times increase in permeability over the best of the best commercial RO systems in use today (they are most likely talking about industrial sized units, not the small home sized ones we use). That by itself is fantastic news, but the kicker is that it can be done at low pressures, unlike the 40-80psi that we deal with in current RO systems. That could mean that a simple filter could be installed in the top of a bucket or other container, and tap water could be poured through it, resulting in clean, low TDS fresh water. That might be a slight exaggeration considering the article doesn’t say how low the pressure actually is, but it’s certainly a possibility.
They are a long way off yet from making this into a commercial product, but the possibilities for this technology are pretty fantastic. Isn’t technology fun?
A more in depth explaination of the work being done can be found at the source link.