Published on March 18th, 20130
Water carbon filter will improve the lives of billions people on Earth
A company best known for making fighter jets and missiles announced that it has discovered a method that reduces the amount of energy required to remove salt from salt water, which will greatly cheapen the process of obtaining clean water, extraordinary deed in today’s worldwide water crisis.
The officials revealed Lockheed Martin will allow producers to make filters thin carbon membranes with holes of about a nanometer, which will allow water to pass through, but that will be too small for molecules of salt from sea water.
This innovation is made possible by a miracle material - graphene. Pure carbon strips which are known as graphene are only one atom thick, so less energy is needed to push the salt water through the filter of force required to separate salt water.
New technology will allow developing countries to avoid costly construction of pumping stations needed in desalination plants using reverse osmosis process.
“Our filter is 500 times thinner than the best filters on the market today and 1000 times more powerful“, said John Stetson, the engineer who worked on this idea. “The energy and pressure needed to filter the salt is approximately 100 times lower“, said Stetson.
Access to drinking water is considered by specialists an increasingly global problem. A report by U.S. intelligence says that the fight for water will lead to instability and even serious problems. “Between today and 2040, drinking water supplies will not keep pace with growing demand, especially if water resources are not managed efficiently. Water problems affect countries’ ability to produce food and generate electricity“, the U.S. report.
United Nations announced last year that about 780 million people on Earth do not have access to clean drinking water.
“Access to water is one of the issues that concern us in terms of global security”, said Tom Notaro, Lockheed representative. “As more countries become more developed, access to water is becoming increasingly critical”, says Notaro.
Lockheed facing some problems regarding the production of graphene filters. Handling this material without breaking thin is difficult. It is also necessary to find a method to increase the production rate. Also, engineers still perfecting the process of producing holes.
Jeffrey Grossman, a professor at MIT who has conducted several studies on graphene membranes, states that produce these strips with a nanometer holes will be a great improvement in terms of efficiency of desalination. “If you can conceive a membrane that is completely different from what we use today, it is possible to increase membrane permeability 100 times,” explained Professor Grossman.
Stetson engineer who started working on this project in 2007, says that when comparing new filter material, called Perforene, a thick sheet of paper, nearest existing filter today would have a thickness of about 20 centimeters.
Thickness of the filter is one of the main factors that determine the amount of energy required to force salt water through the filter in the reverse osmosis process used today for desalination. “The problem disappears if Perforene because the membrane is thinner than the atoms on its filter,” says Stetson.
Lockheed prototype is expected to be available by the end, it will replace the currently used filters in desalination plants using reverse osmosis process.
Also, Lockheed plans to use in other areas Perforene from dialysis for medical services to the water filtration chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.