Could Nanotechnology Solve The Water Crisis?

Nanotechnology could be the answer to ensuring a safe supply of drinking water for
regions of the world stricken by periodic drought or where water contamination is
rife. Writing in the International Journal of Nuclear Desalination, researchers in India
explain how carbon nanotubes could replace conventional materials in water-purification systems.

Water shortages and lack of access to safe drinking water will continue to grow
as major global problems. At present, more than one billion people lack access to
safe drinking water and 2.4 billion people lack access to proper sanitation, nearly
all of them in the developing countries. At present a third of the world’s population
live in water-stressed countries, and by 2025, this is expected to rise to two-thirds.

S. Kar, R.C. Bindal, S. Prabhakar, P.K. Tewari, K. Dasgupta, and D. Sathiyamoorthy
of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai, India, explain how new
water purification technologies are constantly being investigated but to be viable
in the developing world these have to be relatively simple and inexpensive to install,
operate, and maintain.

They have turned to nanostructured, the carbon nanotubes, hollow carbon fibers
less than a billionth the thickness of a human hair. The unique chemical properties
of carbon nanotubes mean that only very small molecules, such as water molecules
can pass along their interiors, whereas viruses, bacteria, toxic metal ions, and large
noxious organic molecules cannot.

The team points out that the smooth and water repellant interior of carbon
nanotubes means that a filter based on this technology would be very efficient,
allowing a high flow rate of water through the filter without fouling. Importantly,
the power needed to drive water through such a system will be low compared to
conventional membrane technology.

However, to be useful as a nanotech filtration system for contaminated water,
these nanoscale structures need to be engineered to form well-defined
arrangements to allow the efficient decontamination of water. The team has now
investigated the potential of forming water filtration systems based on carbon
nanotubes that could remove arsenic, fluoride, heavy metals and toxic organic
chemicals. Carbon nanotubes have impressive credentials for water purification,
the researchers say.

SOURCE: Inderscience Publishers

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