Japanese scientists from Hiroshima University have succeeded in separating salt from seawater – making it drinkable as fresh water – using a membrane technology that is currently being praised in academic circles.
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Their finding was published in the Journal of Membrane Science.
According to Professor Toshinori Tsuru, director of the ROBUST membrane project, "A global shortage of fresh water is a long-term challenge that mankind faces in this century."
Together with his team, Professor Tsuru was able to develop a very thin layer of membrane that sieves and separates salt content from seawater through a “reverse osmosis” process, and this produces freshwater that is drinkable and usable.
The layered membrane was developed from silicon and able to withstand desalination. Since biofilms form on the surface of the membrane and this limits the free passage of water through the membrane, the scientists used a new technique to deal with this problem; even though some other scientists would use sodium hypochlorite or chlorine to remove the biofilms – this ends up damaging the membrane.
A member of the Center for Research on Environmentally Friendly Smart Materials at Hiroshima University's Institute of Engineering, Professor Tsuru was supported in this breakthrough study by Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology (CREST).
"We are developing ROBUST membranes using three materials: silicon-based, hydrocarbon, and chemical vapor deposition. First we have developed silicon-based ROBUST membranes," Professor Tsuru said, adding that the new membrane are heat resistant and can withstand desalination processes in temperatures of 80 degrees.
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"We expect Japan to continue to be one of the leading countries in membrane technologies and membrane-treatment systems," he added.