Lockheed Martin announced this week that it has found a way to greatly reduce the amount of energy required to remove salt from seawater. This new discovery has the potential to make it vastly cheaper to produce clean water at a time when water scarcity is emerging as a global security issue.
The key here appears to be a pure carbon product known as graphene – created in sheets so thin (just an atom in thickness) that it takes much less energy to push seawater through a filter with sufficient force to separate salt from water. It is hoped this new process may eliminate the need for underdeveloped countries to construct costly pumping stations currently required in the reverse osmosis desalination process.
Lockheed reports a number of challenges in moving to production of filters made of graphene, a substance similar to the lead in pencils. Working with this material is difficult without tearing it as is refining the process for making the holes.
The new filtering material, known as Perforene, may be available as early as the end of this year. The objective is a drop in replacement for filters now used in reverse osmosis plants. Lockheed Martin has been awarded a patent for the Perforene material. Perforene material works by removing sodium, chlorine and other ions from seawater.
According to Lockheed Martin, graphene – the ultra strong, carbon-based material – could revolutionize the world's clean water supply. As we celebrate World Water Day today, this is great news.