Graphene is the world’s thinnest material, a layer of pure carbon that is incredibly strong.
Professor Rahul Nair, at The University of Manchester said: “Realisation of scalable membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale is a significant step forward and will open new possibilities for improving the efficiency of desalination technology.
“This is the first clear-cut experiment in this regime. We also demonstrate that there are realistic possibilities to scale up the described approach and mass produce graphene-based membranes with required sieve sizes.”
It is hoped the technology will revolutionize water filtration as current desalination is extremely energy intensive and expensive.
Cheap seawater filtration would provide safe drinking water for millions of people. The sea offers a potentially limitless source of water if the salt can be extracted easily.
One in ten people currently lack access to safe drinking water and the UN also estimates that 1.8 billion people will face water scarcity by 2025.
It is hoped that graphene-oxide membrane systems can be built on smaller scales making this technology accessible to countries which do not have the financial infrastructure to fund large plants without compromising the yield of fresh water produced.