Carbon nanotube membranes with ultrahigh specific adsorption capacity for water desalination and purification

Plasma Treated Carbon Nanotube

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Development of technologies for water desalination and purification is critical to meet the global challenges of insufficient water supply and inadequate sanitation, especially for point-of-use applications. Conventional desalination methods are energy and operationally intensive. Plasma treated carbon nanotubes are leading the way in addressing the technical challenges.

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Carbon nanotube membranes with ultrahigh specific adsorption capacity for water desalination and purification

Courtesy of Nature Communications  Hui Ying Yang, Zhao Jun Han, Siu Fung Yu, Kin Leong Pey, Kostya Ostrikov & Rohit Karnik ; Affiliations Contributions Corresponding author Nature Communications 4, Article number: 2220 doi:10.1038/ncomms3220 Received Accepted Published
Abstract

Development of technologies for water desalination and purification is critical to meet the global challenges of insufficient water supply and inadequate sanitation, especially for point-of-use applications. Conventional desalination methods are energy and operationally intensive, whereas adsorption-based techniques are simple and easy to use for point-of-use water purification, yet their capacity to remove salts is limited. Here we report that plasma-modified ultralong carbon nanotubes exhibit ultrahigh specific adsorption capacity for salt (exceeding 400% by weight) that is two orders of magnitude higher than that found in the current state-of-the-art activated carbon-based water treatment systems.

We exploit this adsorption capacity in ultralong carbon nanotube-based membranes that can remove salt, as well as organic and metal contaminants. These ultralong carbon nanotube-based membranes may lead to next-generation rechargeable, point-of-use potable water purification appliances with superior desalination, disinfection and filtration properties.

introduction

Water treatment technologies, including water desalination and purification, are critical for addressing the issues of clean water shortage around the world1, 2. Reverse osmosis (RO)3, 4 and thermal processes5 are widely implemented in large-scale, industrialized desalination plants. However, large-scale plants consume a large amount of energy and involve high operating costs associated with infrastructure and skilled labour6, making them difficult to be implemented in developing countries and resource-limited areas. Smaller point-of-use (POU) potable water purification devices7, 8, 9, on the other hand, can avoid many of these obstacles and are increasingly recognized as one of the appropriate approaches to meet the needs of clean water and sanitation at the household and community levels.

POU water purification systems often comprise materials that adsorb contaminants, the most common being activated carbons obtained by a variety of methods10. However, although activated carbons can effectively remove organic contaminants and heavy metals, their capacity to adsorb salts is limited, and there are currently only few techniques that can efficiently desalinate water at a small scale3. Development of materials with high salt adsorption capacity will enable the realization of simple POU systems for direct desalination and purification of brackish water.

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Carbon nanotube membranes with ultrahigh specific adsorption capacity for water desalination and purification

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