By Kasim Waqar
The world faces a calamity where 9-14% of the global population does not have access to potable, or drinkable, water. According to the United Nations Water Organization, “783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.”
This is a crisis that ought to be addressed considering the UN projects that the global population will increase to 2.5 billion by the year 2050. A new and interesting material called graphene may hold the solution to this problem. It is an ultra-thin sheet of carbon atoms organized in a hexagonal lattice structure that was discovered at the University of Manchester in 2002. It is now being developed into a graphene-based sieve that can filter salt out of saltwater by researchers in the United Kingdom. More specifically, a compound form of graphene, graphene oxide, is used with a coating of epoxy resin composite so the sieve can filter out nanoparticles and organic molecules without swelling. It usually takes a significant amount of energy to distill or filter impure water. Researchers are now hoping that graphene can provide a cheap and sustainable filter with minimal energy input.
Thankfully, on Long Island, we’re fortunate enough to not have to face this crisis that plagues third-world countries. Regardless, graphene-based filters could benefit us, too. If they are efficient enough, they could provide cheaper access to clean water for everyone. This could also result in less water-related risks by better filtering organic and carcinogenic impurities that even find their way into our water supplies. Some researchers have dubbed graphene the strongest and most stable material on earth. With more research and experimentation, hopefully scientists can manipulate it to bring about more innovative solutions.
Photo courtesy of Phys.org