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Carbon Nanotubes Created by Federal Lab Could Hold the Key to Inexpensive Water Desalination

NWN Learns More About This Promising Research From Olgica Bakajin, PhD, Lead Scientist for the Project at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Artist’s rendering of methane molecules flowing through a carbon nanotube less than two nanometers in diameter.
Scott Dougherty, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
A team of researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory recently announced that they have created a novel CNT membrane that removes salt from water at a faster and more effective rate than the current method of reverse osmosis. “We have experimentally demonstrated that both water and air flow through sub-2nm carbon nanotubes orders of magnitude faster than classical theories predict,” said Dr. Olgica Bakajin, lead scientist for this project. “This allowed us to make a permeable membrane with very small pores.”

This newly created CNT membrane looks to be a more cost effective way to desalinate water as well. The team believes that this membrane has the potential to offset energy costs of up to 75% compared to desalination. “The membranes that we make have a potential to lead to more efficient desalination and separation of industrial gases,” observes Bakajin, and she notes their research has the potential for numerous other applications, including separation of industrial gases.

Bringing nanotechnology discoveries from the lab to the marketplace and in a relatively short amount of time is a big challenge for many in the field, and Dr. Bakajin’s project parallels what other researchers are grappling with daily. “We demonstrated that the transport of gas and water through carbon nanotubes is fast, but we still do not fully understand why. On one hand, we want to perform experiments that will bring us closer to the understanding of transport mechanisms. On the other hand, we want to work on moving this research towards practical applications,” said Bakajin. “These are both challenging propositions but we should be able to tackle them.”

This project at Lawrence Livermore has attracted much interest. “In the last few weeks we have been contacted by close to a dozen companies, so we are exploring the potential for industrial partnerships,” notes Bakajin.RSS feed of Nano World News

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