Researchers at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom have developed a sieve that can filter salt out of seawater. The development could make more fresh drinking water available around the world where access to clean water is poor, according to CNN.
The sieve is made from graphene, a sheet of carbon atoms organized in a hexagonal lattice that was first identified in 2002 at the university. Since then, scientists have called it a "wonder material."
The researchers used graphene oxide to create the rigid sieve necessary to filter the salt. The team said one of its struggles was finding a membrane that did not swell and allow particles to pass through, CNN's report said.
Professor Rahul Nair said in the journal Nature Nanotechnology that "realistic possibilities" exist to mass-produce the sieve, according to Newsweek.
Access to water around the world is a looming problem, as a United Nations prediction says that 14 percent of the world's population will find water scarce by 2025.
Testing the sieve needs to be done, to make sure it resists "fouling by organics, salt and biological material," Ram Devanathan of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory wrote, according to CNN.
"The ultimate goal is to create a filtration device that will produce potable water from seawater or waste water with minimal energy output Devanathan said.
Existing desalinization plants use thermal energy or polymers, and both techniques have drawn controversy. Environmentalists have said the desalinization plants produce excessive energy and greenhouse gases, and could be harmful to marine life. Not all water is used up by the plants and is usually discharged into the environment, according to Korea Times.
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