Revolutionary graphene filter could solve water crisis

Revolutionary graphene filter could solve water crisis

A new type of graphene-based filter could be the key to managing the global water crisis, a study has revealed. The new graphene filter, which has been developed by Monash University and the University of Kentucky, allows water and other liquids to be filtered nine times faster than the current leading commercial filter.

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report, lack of access to safe, clean water is the biggest risk to society over the coming decade. Yet some of these risks could be mitigated by the development of this filter, which is so strong and stable that it can be used for extended periods in the harshest corrosive environments, and with less maintenance than other filters on the market.

The research team was led by Associate Professor Mainak Majumder from Monash University. Associate Professor Majumder said the key to making their filter was developing a viscous form of oxide that could be spread very thinly with a blade.

"This technique creates a uniform arrangement in the graphene, and that evenness gives our filter special properties," Associate Prof Majumder said.

This technique allows the filters to be produced much faster and in larger sizes, which is critical for developing commercial applications. The graphene-based filter could be used to filter chemicals, viruses, or bacteria from a range of liquids. It could be used to purify water, dairy products or wine, or in the production of pharmaceuticals.

This is the first time that a graphene filter has been able to be produced on an industrial scale – a problem that has plagued the scientific community for years.

Research team member and PhD candidate, Abozar Akbari, said scientists had known for years that graphene filters had impressive qualities, but in the past they had been difficult and expensive to produce.

"It's been a race to see who could develop this technology first, because until now graphene-based could only be used on a small scale in the lab," Mr Akbari said.

Graphene is a lattice of carbon atoms so thin it's considered to be two-dimensional. It has been hailed as a "wonder-material" because of its incredible performance characteristics and range of potential applications.

The team's new filter can filter out anything bigger than one nanometre, which is about 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

The research has gathered interest from a number of companies in the United States and the Asia Pacific, the largest and fastest-growing markets for nano-filtration technologies.

The team's research was supported by industry partner Ionic Industries, as well as a number of Australian Research Council grants.

Ionic Industries' CEO, Mark Muzzin, said the next step was to get the patented graphene-based filter on the market.

"We are currently developing ways to test how the filter fares against particular contaminants that are of interest to our customers" Mr Muzzin said.

Co-author of the research and Director of the Center for Membrane Science, Professor Dibakar Bhattacharyya, from the University of Kentucky, said: "The ability to control the thickness of the filter and attain a sharper cut-off in separation, and the use of only water as the casting solvent, is a commercial breakthrough."

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More information: Abozar Akbari et al. Large-area graphene-based nanofiltration membranes by shear alignment of discotic nematic liquid crystals of graphene oxide, Nature Communications (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10891
Journal information: Nature Communications

Provided by Monash University
Citation: Revolutionary graphene filter could solve water crisis (2016, March 10) retrieved 18 October 2019 from
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Mar 10, 2016
100 1000 megawatt fission plants would solve the FRESH water problem as well as keeping the lights on.

Mar 10, 2016
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Mar 11, 2016
100 1000 megawatt fission plants would solve the FRESH water problem as well as keeping the lights on.

I prefer IFR's.

Mar 11, 2016
Graphene, buckyballs, quantum dots, carbon nanotubes. None of them has amounted to anything. Yet every single week we get happy stories of the marvels to come. I remember a technological "breakthrough" story from 35 years ago about how ground-up rubber tires were going to revolutionize asphalt construction and durability of roads. Nothing came of it. This stuff is all up there with 100mpg carburetors

Mar 14, 2016
As far as I can tell, the greatest problem has been finding a way to efficiently manufacture graphene a large quantities. This water filter is another great idea. But, can it be manufactured at a reasonable cost?

Mar 14, 2016
I know that the graphene products, the 'perfect sheet' graphene, has been what has been tried to have utilized, but this, obviously has a much much easier bulk production method by far, and, with proper quality control, should be a very awesome material to use this way, clean water is taken for granted in so many places, yet there is much of the world that does not have such access, no infrastructure in place.

Also, as I remember, there was not only the problem of having to deal with grinding up the Steel belted tires as well, which they did, and one of their test roads, which went OK fer a couple years so they gave permission for it to be used, but then that first road, with the shredded steel belts, that had rusted, caught fire and the rust in it made it such that they could not put it out, just rapidly cut off the road by ditching across it to stop the burning, and then all of those rubber roads were removed, at some great cost, was quite the whohurrah, if one remembers.

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