Amir Barati Farimani, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Carnegie Mellon University, mentions that the threat the world faces due to water scarcity is acute as he laid out the statistics bare, which shows that four billion people in the world face severe water scarcity at least one month of the year and at least a half a billion people live under severe water scarcity perennially.
Everyone is aware that water makes up 71% of the surface of the Earth and even with this voluminous amount, facing water shortage creates an antinomy, according to Farimani.
He has come up with an innovative solution to tackle this problem head on: desalination. His specific method involves forcing seawater through a very thin membrane having tiny holes which selectively allows the water to go through, thereby retaining the salt ions within the membrane itself.
Farimani has explored the efficiency of this process by creating a new type of membrane, called the metal-organic framework (MOF), which has a pentagonal structure with a hole at the center, looking like a honeycomb, and found that his contraption was pretty effective as the membrane is very thin and hence minimizes the friction when water molecules flow through it.
Farimani also noted that the placement of the holes is key as when the pores are much too far apart, there’s a huge pressure on the water molecules from the membrane causing the flow to slow down like water passing through a funnel, however allowing for more holes makes the flow much easier, like water passing through a strainer as it has multiple exit points.
He also added that holes have to be drilled physically into other materials which would limit the number of holes per surface area however their MOF membrane structure incorporates pores naturally which enables more number of holes per surface area, which have implications on how fast water can pass through.
Simulations yielded higher flow rate of water and in a typical desalination plant having billions of pores, they can definitely expect a higher rate of efficiency.
His research has been published in Nano Letters, a monthly peer-reviewed journal published by the American Chemical Society.
Farimani hopes that using these less energy consuming and high efficiency desalination techniques, we can look forward for a utopian future where drinking water is available to all who inhabit Earth, a noble goal at that.