MIT researchers have come up with a new approach using a different kind of filtration material: sheets of graphene, a one-atom-thick form of the element carbon, which they say can be far more efficient and possibly less expensive than existing desalination systems.
“There are not that many people working on desalination from a materials point of view,” says Jeffrey Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, who is the senior author of a paper describing the new process in the journal Nano Letters.
Grossman and graduate student David Cohen-Tanugi, who is the lead author of the paper, aimed to “control the properties of the material down to the atomic level,” producing a graphene sheet perforated with precisely sized holes. They also added other elements to the material, causing the edges of these minuscule openings to interact chemically with water molecules — either repelling or attracting them.
“We were very pleasantly surprised” by how well graphene performed compared to existing systems in computer simulations, Grossman says.
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