Graphene Filtering Technique Simplifies Water Purification

A new filtering technique that uses a specially designed type of graphene, dubbed Graphair, has succeeded in simplifying the water purification process, making it quicker and more effective.


Developed by a team of scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia, the breakthrough filtration technique saw water samples taken from Sydney Harbour made safe to drink.


Using the new process, the researchers were able to devise a graphene film with microscopic nano-channels that allowed water to pass through but kept pollutants out. Not only that but Graphair – which includes renewable soybean oil, typically found in vegetable oil – is also cheaper, faster, simpler and more environmentally friendly than graphene itself is to make.


One of the biggest problems with the water filtering methods of today has also potentially been solved. Over a period of time, oil and chemical-based pollutants coat water filters and stop them working at maximum effectiveness, so contaminants have to then be removed before filtering can take place. But Graphair was found to work even when covered in such pollutants.


Scientist Dr Dong Han Seo commented on the results, saying: “Almost a third of the world’s population, some 2.1 billion people, don’t have clean and safe drinking water. As a result, millions – mostly children – die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene every year. In Graphair, we’ve found a perfect filter for water purification. It can replace the complex, time-consuming and multi-stage processes currently needed with a single step.”


He went on to say that this kind of technology is able to create clean drinking water, no matter how dirty it is, in just one step – all that’s needed is the graphene, heat, a water pump and a membrane filter. And it’s hoped that field trials will soon begin in a developing world community from 2019, with CSIRO now looking for industry partners to help it scale up so the technology can be used to filter a home water supply – or even that of a town.


Stats from WaterAid show that one in nine people on the planet don’t have clean water close to where they live. Some 844 million people don’t have access to clean water, 31 per cent of schools don’t have clean water and on a global scale, up to 443 million school days are lost annually because of water-related illnesses.


And according to Tropical Medicine and International Health, if everyone around the world did have access to clean water, the number of diarrhoeal deaths would be slashed by a third.


But in July last year, WaterAid research showed that diseases associated with dirty water and a lack of safe toilets are actually the fifth biggest global killers of women, responsible for the deaths of nearly 800,000 people around the world in a single year. Over 370 million women globally live without access to clean drinking water, while 1.25 billion live without access to safe private toilets.


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