Sunday, March 17, 2013

Did Capitalism Just Solve the World's Water Crisis?

Gotta love this headline from Reuters...

Pentagon weapons-maker finds method for cheap, clean water
The process, officials and engineers at Lockheed Martin Corp say, would enable filter manufacturers to produce thin carbon membranes with regular holes about a nanometer in size that are large enough to allow water to pass through but small enough to block the molecules of salt in seawater. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.

Because the sheets of pure carbon known as graphene are so thin - just one atom in thickness - it takes much less energy to push the seawater through the filter with the force required to separate the salt from the water, they said.

The development could spare underdeveloped countries from having to build exotic, expensive pumping stations needed in plants that use a desalination process called reverse osmosis.

"It's 500 times thinner than the best filter on the market today and a thousand times stronger," said John Stetson, the engineer who has been working on the idea. "The energy that's required and the pressure that's required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less."
Of course, going from laboratory scale desalinization to city sized plants is a fair step, but I have a good feeling about this. Reverse osmosis is a pretty well established technology, so it should be relatively easy to make the upgrade.  I just hope it becomes practical before our water co-op is forced to drill a well to the Patapsco Aquifer and mine million year old ground water.

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