Print 74 comment(s) - last by 16nm.. on Jul 24 at 11:12 PM

New membrane will help to ensure many parts of the world have easy access to drinking water.

One of the biggest, but least appreciated problems facing many regions of the world is lack of clean drinking water, a common problem in impoverished nations.  Ironically, many of these nations rest beside large bodies of salt water. Ttypically, processing salt water into fresh water is expensive and requires large dedicated plants.

DailyTech previously chronicled how wind-power driven desalinization plants which used membranes were being developed.  Now another major breakthrough in the field has been devised, this time concerning the membranes.

Researchers from several international universities have developed a chlorine-tolerant membrane which turns salt water into clean drinking water.  Typically, salt water is treated with chlorine to remove bacteria and microorganisms that would grow and form a biofilm on the membrane, blocking it.  However, chlorine destroys past membranes which were build using amide-polymers (nitrogen based).  This meant that that the water had to be dechlorinated before being sent to the membrane, a relatively expensive and complex process.

The new membrane is formed from sulfonated copolymers.  It took researchers Professor Benny Freeman with the The University of Texas at Austin, James E. McGrath of Virginia Tech University, and Ho Bum Park of the University of Ulsan in South Korea three years to develop the membrane for which they have filed a patent.  The new membrane is resistant to chlorine allowing the elimination of dechlorination.

Says Professor Freeman, "If we make the desalination process more efficient with better membranes, it will be less expensive to desalinate a gallon of water, which will expand the availability of clean water around the world.  It promises to eliminate de-chlorination steps that are required currently to protect membranes from attack by chlorine in water.  We believe that even a small increase in efficiency should result in large cost savings."

Researchers also believe the design will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions in developing nations by decreasing the electrical needs of the generation process. 

Professor Freeman explains:

Energy and water are inherently connected.  You need water to generate power (cooling water for electric power generation stations) and generation of pure water requires energy to separate the salt from the water. That energy is often generated from the burning of fossil fuels, which leads inevitably to the generation of carbon dioxide. Therefore, if one can make desalination more energy-efficient by developing better membranes, such as those that we are working on, one could reduce the carbon footprint required to produce pure water.

It was a combination of luck and hard work that brought the researchers upon the novel suflonated class of membranes.  This class of materials enjoys a high tolerance to aqueous chlorine, making it surprisingly a far better fit than membrane materials currently in use.

Professor Freeman, who holds the Kenneth A. Kobe Professorship in Chemical Engineering and the Paul D. & Betty Robertson Meek & American Petrofina Foundation Centennial Professorship in Chemical Engineering, states, "Basically, Dr. McGrath radically changed the chemical composition of the membranes, relative to what is used commercially, and the new membranes do not have chemical linkages in them that are sensitive to attack by chlorine."

The research was funded by the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation-Partnerships for Innovation Program. 

The findings will be reported in a paper in this month's edition of the German Chemical Society's journal, Angewandte Chemie, with Mehmet Sankir and Zhong-Bio Zhang, both of Virginia Tech, as additional coauthors.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Swank.
By codeThug on 7/23/2008 10:38:21 PM , Rating: 2 quiet you could hear a kangaroo drop...

RE: Swank.
By andrinoaa on 7/24/2008 6:52:18 AM , Rating: 1
Nice try masher2, but it just goes to show statistics, lies and more damn lies.
Australia can be divided in two. The tropical north and the rest. Its true lots of rain falls in the tropics. But the rest of the country where the majority lives is now on borrowed water. Damming all this water would utterly destroy the barrier reef and most of the great fishing grounds off the coast. It is also inhospitable in the dry and unstoppable in the wet. Its like trying to harness a cyclone. The environment up north is finely tune to the seasons. Any large scale damming is going to be on a knife's edge.
In the past we built dams everywhere and that is a major reason why we are in a terrible state now - we didn't know what we were doing. We assumed the good times would keep rolling on forever.
Studies have been made to see if the water can be redirected and the figures come back as many times more expensive than desal.

RE: Swank.
By masher2 on 7/24/2008 8:49:02 AM , Rating: 2
> "Damming all this water would utterly destroy the barrier reef and most of the great fishing grounds off the coast."

Stuff and nonsense. First of all, you you don't need to dam anywhere near "all" this water, or even 1% of it. As I demonstrated, Australia receives nearly 2000 times as much water as it only need to dam a small part of it to solve your problems.

RE: Swank.
By andrinoaa on 7/24/2008 6:22:04 PM , Rating: 2
You seem to like to get to the tiniest of peices and pick holes but you don't get the big picture. Daming the water while technically possible, is beyond our country's financial capacity. It was already tried out west. It is called the Ord river dam. Its a total fiasco.It has lots of water but it is so far away from the population centres, it may as well be on the moon. This was the main point, the environment was a byproduct. But it seems you would be perfectly happy to defecate in your own cereal bowl. Small children do that.
You always seem to missunderstand the big picture, masher2.
My posting was about using WAVE power to run desal. The new membrane would be ideal!

RE: Swank.
By mmatis on 7/24/2008 9:27:27 PM , Rating: 1
Quelle surprise! Another left-wing butt-wipe spewing their lies. Why don't you go suck Osama like the rest of your media buddies are doing?

"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini
Related Articles

Latest Headlines

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Yahoo Hacked - Change Your Passwords and Security Info ASAP!
September 23, 2016, 5:45 AM
A is for Apples
September 23, 2016, 5:32 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki