Desalination is the process of removing salt and other chemicals from water to make it potable. It holds immense promise for providing clean water in the future as we face dwindling fresh water supplies for a growing population.
For years, inconsistent efficiency in desalination baffled scientists who did not completely understand how water passed through reverse osmosis membranes. Now, thanks to researchers from Penn State and the University of Texas, Austin, this mystery has been solved, paving the way for more efficient desalination.
While it was always assumed that thicker membranes cause water to move more slowly through them, the researchers discovered that consistency in membrane thickness, not thickness itself is actually more critical for desalination efficiency.
The researchers partnered with DuPont Water Solutions to produce 3D reconstructions of the nanoscale membrane structure. By modeling the path water takes through these membranes, they were able to design a precise membrane that allows for an efficiency increase of 30 to 40 percent. This means facilities using the specially-designed membrane are able to produce more clean water using significantly less energy.
As communities continue to search for more clean water solutions, more and more desalination advancements are hitting the market. We look forward to seeing this technology implemented for more efficient desalination systems!