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Reporting their results in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from the University of Manchester
By 2025 the UN expects that 14% of the world's population will encounter water scarcity
"The ultimate goal is to create a filtration device that will produce potable water from seawater or wastewater with minimal energy input."
This special material is a film of a special structure of carbon, a honeycomb lattice called graphene.
"Graphene is pure carbon that is made in a hot oven on top of a copper sheet in a vacuum," John Stetson, the chief technologist at Lockheed for this initiative explained to Business Insider. "Methane gas is put into the vacuum and the methane changes into a single film of carbon atoms all linked together tightly like chickenwire (at the atomic level) 1,000 times stronger than steel and tolerant of temperature, pressure and pH."
The sheet is dotted with holes that are one nanometer or less. These holes between carbon atoms trap the salt and other impurities.
"We know carbon as graphite for our pencils, as diamonds, as soot," Rocha said. "We can transform that soot or graphite into a nanometer-type material known as graphene."
A single-walled carbon nanotube is created when a sheet of graphene is rolled up. The physical change alters the material's chemical structure and determines how it behaves. The result is "one of the most heat conductive and electrically conductive materials in the world," Rocha said. "These are properties that only come into play because they are at the nanometer scale."
"We have shown that we can regenerate these materials," said Rogers... "In the future, when your water filter finally gets saturated, put it in the microwave for about five minutes and the impurities will get evaporated off."
The material, a nanometer-thick sheet of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) riddled with tiny holes called nanopores, is specially designed to let high volumes of water through but keep salt and other contaminates out, a process called desalination. In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the Illinois team modeled various thin-film membranes and found that MoS2 showed the greatest efficiency, filtering through up to 70 percent more water than graphene membranes.