Developing the perfect water filter is Baoxia Mi's goal.Growing up in China, she learned the value of clean drinking water early on.Now at the University of California, Berkeley, the environmental engineer is developing a new type of membrane that could be more efficient than today's water filtration technology and consume less energy in the process.It's made up of layers of grapheme, 100,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair.
“We made it from graphite, which is a material that we use in pencils for example, so it's cheap and relatively abundant.So we can use that, and the process that we use to make from the graphite to the grapheme oxide is actually quite scalable.”
That means the membranes could be adapted to filter water from a faucet, as well as for large systems used to treat wastewater.The membranes are much like a maze for water molecules.The water passes through a series of layers separated by spaces specifically designed to remove different types of contaminants.
“In order to kind of get a different…remove different targeted molecules, the most direct way of thinking about it is to control the spacing that we have between the layers.”
The researchers are working on further improvements, they hope their work will contribute to finding solutions to water purification worldwide to make clean water affordable and available for people everywhere.