20 Nov Nanopore Materials Continue Development
Though our planet is covered with water much of it is undrinkable because it is salt water. With growing concern about the availability of fresh water in many communities across the country, there has been more talk about building desalination plants, but these require a lot of energy. Engineers in the US have been working on coming up with more energy-efficient methods for removing salt out of seawater. If successful, such a solution could be used to give people access to drinking water and water for crops, which is especially important for drought-stricken areas.
Conventional desalination relies on reverse osmosis to channel seawater through a thin plastic membrane, but the process is very slow. To make it faster, water pressure must be raised, but this requires more energy to operate.
One of the materials that has been developed for desalination would allow a large amount of water to pass through very tiny holes called nanopores that block salt and other contaminants. The material is made up of a sheet of molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) that is a nanometre thick. So far, this material has proved to be the most successful out of several types of materials that the engineers tested, and 70% better than graphene.
According to Mohammad Heiranian, first author of the study, the molybdenum disulphide membrane “allows the water to pass through it with far less resistance. In addition, the molybdenum in the center attracts water, and then the sulphur on the other side pushes it away, so we have much higher rate of water going through the pore.”
Researchers are currently working with manufacturers in order to help make such a process of desalination closer to being a reality.
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