Graphene might be the secret to super-efficient water filters, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications.
About 1 in 10 people don't have access to clean drinking water, according to Water.org. The World Economic Forum's 2015 risk report found lack of access to clean water is one of the biggest global threats we'll face in the next decade. So creating an efficient, durable water filter is extremely important.
We've known for a while that graphene could be used as a water filter, and a lot of research groups are working on it. The problem lies in the challenges of manufacturing graphene.
Graphene has some incredible properties: It's a honeycomb-shaped layer of carbon just one atom thick, but it's stronger than steel. Since its discovery, scientists have hailed it as a wonder material with the potential to change entire industries.
There's a big problem standing in the way, though. A material that thin is really difficult to make, so manufacturing graphene on an industrial scale has proved tricky. Scientists are still struggling to figure out a good way to create a lot of the material in a short amount of time.
This new research may have finally uncovered a good method to manufacture graphene on a large scale.
"We have a form of graphene oxide which we can spread, almost with something like a butter knife," Mainak Majumder, one of the researchers who worked on the paper, told Mashable. "It is not only scalable, but it gives quite a unique [uniform] microstructure that people have never demonstrated before."
Graphene is an ideal material for water filters because it can clean out much smaller particles and last longer than existing filters, according to the researchers.
The filter can clean out everything larger than 1 nanometer (a width 100,000 times smaller than a human hair). And the filter lasts a long time since carbon doesn't easily corrode.
The researchers are already raising money to try and bring their filter design to life. A company called Ionic Industries has already expressed interest in the filter.