Graphair sample
A researcher holding a sample of 'Graphair' - Credit: CSIRO

A new product fabricated from graphene makes it possible to cheaply and easily make dirty water drinkable. This “wonder material” technology could be used to considerably increase the availability of clean drinking water to the developing countries of the world.

Australian Scientists’ from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) developed a thin membrane made from graphene, called “Graphair,” which can make dirty water clean enough to drink after only a single pass through. The group’s research was published in Nature Communications.

World Health Organization (WHO) has compiled some alarming statistics concerning worldwide access to clean water: based on that information, at the very least 2 billion individuals worldwide are utilizing drinking water contaminated with pollutants including feces.

Drinking contaminated water can transmit numerous diarrheal diseases, such as cholera, typhoid, polio, and dysentery, as well as many parasites, like giardia. In water-stressed areas that also have limited access to medical care, diarrheal diseases may be life-threatening. Based on WHO data, around 502,000 individuals die annually from these diseases after consuming contaminated water — and many of them are kids.

Current methods of water filtration are time-consuming and very costly. Graphair does not just make it easier to get clean water; it is also more affordable than other forms of graphene! It is also both easy to use and comparatively cheap whereas retaining the extremely beneficial properties of the material. In fact, the material’s primary element is renewable soybean oil.

How Does Graphair Work

One of the material’s most fascinating properties is that it is hydrophobic, which means it repels water. The material was developed to have microscopic nanochannels that allow water molecules through the film but are too small for pollutants comprised of larger molecules to get through. The result is a totally clean and clear water sample after just one pass through the film.

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What’s Next

The next steps for the research team will be to connect with industry partners who might help them scale Graphair up for practical and commercial use. They are also trying to conduct field tests for the material’s efficacy in real-world situations.

Dr Dong Han Seo
Dr Dong Han Seo – Credit: CSIRO

In a press release, lead author Dr. Dong Han Seo stated “All that is needed is heat, our graphene, a membrane filter and a small water pump. We are hoping to begin field trials in a developing world community next year.” If they can meet that objective, Graphair could soon turn into an integral part of public filtration methods while also bringing clean water to the parts of the world which need it most.


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