Researchers at Northeastern University have discovered a way to use carbon nanotubes to desalinate water. Current desalination technology is energy intensive and expensive on a large scale, so the new technology could have major implications on the future of water treatment.
A report from Northeastern explains that the carbon nanotube method developed the by researchers is successful because it easily separates individual water molecules that tend to cling together due to hydrogen bonds. In addition, because the nanotubes carry a negative charge, they also work to repel the negatively charged ions in salt. This double action of separating clinging water molecules and repelling salt work together in the desalination process. The nanotube used for this technique is exactly 0.8nm, a size that allows just one water molecule to pass through the structure at a time.
The researchers behind this work are now partnering with a leading water purification organization based in Israel. The group was recently awarded a National Science Foundation/Binational Science Foundation grant to conduct further studies and develop water filtration platforms based on their new method.