The future of desalination: Using a Teflon-like membrane to purify water
Water scarcity is a growing problem worldwide. In Africa alone, an estimated 230 million people will face water scarcity by 2025, and up to 460 million people will live in areas without water.
Water covers about 70% of the Earth’s surface, so it is easy to imagine that there would be plenty of water. However, clean water is scarce. Another technology is designed to help produce more fresh water for desalination plants. Desalination is extracting salt from seawater to have clean water that can be processed continuously and safely. The desalination industry converts almost half of the water we receive into drinking water.
Although desalination is a well-designed way to produce drinking water, it comes with high energy costs. Researchers successfully filtered salt in water for the first time using fluorine-based nanostructures. These green nanochannels work better than conventional desalination technology because they work faster, use less pressure, are less efficient, and use less energy.
You have probably seen how wet ingredients slide into a Teflon-lined frying pan that has not been used correctly. Fluorine, a naturally occurring water-soluble element or hydrophobic, is an essential component of Teflon. Teflon can also be used to improve water flow by installing pipes. Professor Yoshimitsu Itoh of the University of Tokyo in the Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology, and his colleagues, we’re impressed by the behavior. Therefore, they were inspired to investigate how fluorine pipes or channels could operate at a different rate, nanoscale.
“We were looking forward to seeing how fluorous nanochannel could work in filtering out various compounds, in particular, water and salt. Also, after using some of the most sophisticated computer simulations, we decided it was worth the time and effort to create a workable sample,” says Itoh. “There are two main ways to extract salt from water at present: heat, using heat to evaporate seawater to form pure water, or reversible osmosis, which uses pressure to compel water with a salt-retaining membrane. Both methods require a lot of energy, but our experiments suggest that simple nanochannels require less energy and have other benefits as well.”
Researchers have developed chemical filters for nanoscopic fluorine rings that were packaged and encapsulated in an impermeable lipid layer, similar to the organic molecules found in cell walls. They have created many experimental samples with nanorings ranging from 1 to 2 nanometers, and human hair is about 100,000 nanometers in comparison. Itoh and colleagues examined the presence of chlorine ions, one of the significant components of salt (the other being sodium), on both sides of the test membrane to determine the function of their membranes.