Nanopores material could be the future of desalination

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new material with 'nanopores' that efficiently strips salt out of seawater, leaving behind drinkable water. This desalination process involves passing high volumes of water through the new material, molybdenum disulfide, which is only a single nanometer thick. The salt is trapped by the nanopores, as well as other contaminants.

The research, which was recently detailed in the journal Nature, is an energy-efficient desalination process; using the aforementioned material, researchers could filter up to 70-percent more seawater than possible using graphene. Traditionally, desalination efforts require the use of reverse osmosis technology, which is not very suitable for the task and is very expensive to run.

Reverse osmosis requires a lot of energy in addition to a lot of money, and it doesn't produce high quantities of fresh water, at least not quickly. In addition, this technology is also prone to clogging, causing the system to fail and requiring expensive servicing to get the operation running again.

The researchers overcame these problems with their nanopores material, which is thinner than the membrane used in reverse osmosis, thought it can handle the pressure of having large quantities of water pushed through it. Such technology holds the promise of increasing available drinking water in places experiencing drought, something made possible — but not practical — by present desalination efforts.

SOURCE: University of Illinois