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A nanofiber membrane could help solve the drinking water crisis

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Korean scientists are demanding a new one desalination the technique makes seawater suitable for drinking in a few minutes. The researchers used a membrane distillation process that led to 99.9 percent salt rejection for a month. If commercialized, they say the solution could help alleviate the drinking water crisis exacerbated by climate change. More than 3 billion people around the world are affected by the lack of water, with the amount of fresh water available per person falling by a fifth in two decades, according to the UN.

The new study details a way to purify seawater using a nanofiber membrane as a salt filter. While scientists have used membrane distillation in the past, they have continued to encounter a massive obstacle that has slowed the process. If the membrane becomes too wet, or flooded, you can no longer refuse salt. Needless to say, it was a time-consuming process that forced scientists to wait for the membrane to dry or find additional solutions, such as using pressurized air to release trapped water from their pores. .

To overcome this challenge, the Korean team turned to a nano-technology known as electrospinning to create its three-dimensional membrane. In scientific terms, they used polyvinylidene fluoride-co-hexafluoropropylene as core and silica airgel mixed with a low concentration of polymer as a sheath to produce a composite membrane with a superhydrophobic surface. In essence, this created a filter that had a higher surface roughness and a lower thermal conductivity, which allowed it to desalinate water for up to 30 days. The full report was published in the Journal of Membrane Science.

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“The coaxial electro-spun nanofiber membrane has strong potential for the treatment of seawater solutions without suffering from bathing problems and can be suitable for full-scale membrane distillation applications,” said Drs. Building technology, he said. He added that the membrane may be suitable for “pilot-scale and real-scale membrane distillation applications.”

Currently, the main method to purify seawater is through reverse osmosis at low pressure 20,000 desalination plants in the world. But these facilities require huge amounts of electricity to operate and also create concentration brine as a waste product, which is typically discharged into the sea. So, it’s not surprising that scientists are exploring new solutions that aren’t so counterproductive.

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