22nd March 2013
A step closer to affordable water desalination
The defence contractor, Lockheed Martin, has reported a new method for desalination that is vastly cheaper and more efficient, using nanotechnology.
Lockheed Martin has been awarded a patent for "Perforene" – a new molecular filtration system that is designed to meet the growing global demand for potable water. This material works by removing sodium, chlorine and other ions from seawater and other sources.
Dr. Ray Johnson, senior vice president and chief technology officer: "Access to clean drinking water is going to become more critical as the global population continues to grow, and we believe that this simple and affordable solution will be a game-changer for the industry. Perforene ... is just one example of Lockheed Martin's efforts to apply some of the advanced materials that we have developed for our core markets, including aircraft and spacecraft, to global environmental and economic challenges."
According to a UN report last year, over 780 million people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water. Tom Notaro, Lockheed business manager for advanced materials: "One of the areas that we're very concerned about in terms of global security is the access to clean and affordable drinking water. As more and more countries become more developed ... access to that water for their daily lives is becoming more and more critical."
Perforene was developed by placing holes that are one nanometre or less in a membrane of graphene. These are small enough to trap ions while dramatically improving the flow-through of water molecules, reducing clogging and pressure. Being just one atom thick, graphene is both strong and durable, making it far more effective at sea water desalination at a fraction of the cost of traditional reverse osmosis systems.
John Stetson, senior engineer: "It's 500 times thinner than the best filter on the market today and 1,000 times stronger. The energy that's required and the pressure that's required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less."
In addition to desalination, the Perforene membrane can be tailored to other applications – including capturing minerals, through the selection of the size of hole placed in the material to filter or capture a specific size particle of interest. Lockheed Martin has also been developing processes that will allow the material to be produced at scale. The company is now seeking commercialisation partners.
A desalination plant in Dubai, United Arab Emirates