On February 15, 2018, an article — press release? — appeared on Yahoo about potable water becoming an inexpensive and instant reality for millions of people.

The Australian research organisation CSIRO has developed and tested a filtration technique which uses graphene film:

with microscopic nano-channels that lets water pass through, but stops pollutants. The process, called “Graphair”, is so effective that water samples from Sydney Harbor were safe to drink after being treated.

And while the film hails from graphene, Graphair is comparatively cheaper, faster and more environmentally-friendly to make, as its primary component is renewable soybean oil, which also helps maximise the efficiency of the purifying technique’s filter counterpart. Over time, oil-based pollutants can impede water filters, so contaminants have to be removed before filtering can even begin, but using Graphair removes these pollutants faster than any other method.

Dr Dong Han Seo, lead author of the research, says that trials will begin in 2019 in developing countries:

All that’s needed is heat, our graphene, a membrane filter and a small water pump.

This is amazing news.

Other possible uses for Graphair could be seawater treatment and effluent removal. CSIRO hopes to receive industry funding as their research continues.

In April 2017, Engaget reported on researchers at the University of Manchester in England who are working on graphene sieves for desalinating water. Dr. Rahul Nair, who leads the project, said that the holes in the sieve are nanometer-sized:

When the capillary size is around one nanometer, which is very close to the size of the water molecule, those molecules form a nice interconnected arrangement like a train. That makes the movement of water faster: if you push harder on one side, the molecules all move on the other side because of the hydrogen bonds between them. You can only get that situation if the channel size is very small.

Engaget’s article concludes:

Someday, these graphene-based sieves could change lives around the world. But before that happens, the team has to make sure they can withstand prolonged contact with seawater. They also need to test the material against current membranes desalination processes use. “The ultimate goal,” Nair said, “is to create a filtration device that will produce potable water from seawater or wastewater with minimal energy input.”

The University of Manchester team continues their research.

These are very exciting developments for the world’s poor.