Desalination breakthrough could lead to cheaper water filtration
Producing clean water at a lower cost could be on the horizon after researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and Penn State solved a complex problem that has baffled scientists for decades. In partnership with DuPont Water Solutions, the researchers determined that desalination membranes are inconsistent in density and mass distribution, and the inconsistency can hold back their performance.
Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions
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I'm Bob Karson with The Discovery Files, from NSF -- the U.S. National Science Foundation.
(Sound effect: surf sound) There's a new advance in one type of desalination the reverse osmosis procedure that pushes the salty water through a series of membranes to produce pure clean unsalted water -- (Sound effect: pouring water into glass) for drinking, (Sound effect: tractor, irrigation sounds) farming, energy production and industry.
The method's in use all over the world. But researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Penn State found a way to do it more efficiently, for a much lower cost.
Scientists never fully understood the minute details of how water moved through the membranes. That is, until the team looked into it at the nanoscale. They found the membranes were inconsistent in density and mass distribution, causing them to underperform. Through 3D electron microscopy and modeling, they discovered that by simply making sure the membranes were structured properly and consistently at the nanometer scale, clean water production could be increased by approximately 30 percent in the best case.
Desalination requires lots of energy. With each gallon around 20 percent cheaper to produce energy-wise, this is a gamechanger with shortages, drought and weather instability putting a drain on supplies. NSF, Dupont and Iowa State University supported the effort.
A cheaper way to go from salt water to safe water.
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