Water desalination is a way to turn saltwater into drinking water. The growing population of the world requires more solutions to increase resources for everyone, and that includes clean drinking water.
Scientists have experimented for years on ways to improve the process of water desalination or the removal of salt from seawater to make it safe to drink. But that is not without any challenges. They have to overcome optimizing the membrane used for the desalination process.
New research on improving the desalination membrane used in the desalination process promises to make the whole process cheaper and more accessible in the future. The scientists have figured a way to make the membranes 30% to 40% more energy-efficient, which lies in the density of the membranes at a nanoscale level, ScienceAlert reported.
Scientists Improve the Desalination Membranes
According to the study, keeping the density of the desalination membranes consistent is more crucial than the thinness of the membranes to improve their cleaning power, known as reverse osmosis. This water purification process catches and removes the minerals through the use of pressure.
Environmental engineer Manish Kumar from the University of Texas at Austin, added that reverse osmosis membranes are widely used for cleaning water although there are more to explore about this process.
Kumar and his colleagues used a multimodal electron microscopy technique to model how efficiently the water is cleaned. They found that the density or that the thicker the desalination membranes were, the better they can desalinate the water. Also, they discovered that inconsistencies and dead zones in the membrane affect the desalination process than thickness.
The researchers suggest that if the density of the membranes is equally distributed, more water can be cleaned with less energy, which saves more money for large-scale corporations and consumers alike. This technique makes the water desalination process more efficient and accessible.
"You can see how some places are more or less dense in a coffee filter just by your eye," says Enrique Gomez, a chemical engineer from the Pennsylvania State University.
"In filtration membranes, it looks even, but it's not at the nanoscale, and how you control that mass distribution is really important for water-filtration performance."
Importance of the Desalination Process
Like all living organisms, humans need water to survive. However, there is more saline water on Earth than fresh drinking water. So scientists found a way to convert saline water into freshwater, called the desalination process.
In the United States, most people can gain access to ample supplies of freshwater for drinking purposes, although it is short in supply in many parts of the country and the world. As the Earth's population increases, shortages of potable drinking water occur more often, and turning saltwater from oceans into freshwater for drinking is a way to meet the demand.
Removing salt from the salt water might sound so easy by using distillation wherein the water is boiled, and the steam is captured and condensed back into the water. But this process must be done on a large scale to be useful in large populations, according to USGS. Besides, the current desalination processes are expensive, need a lot of energy, and need large-scale facilities.
The discovery of the scientists, published in the journal Science, will make the desalination process cheaper and more efficient.
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