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December 20th, 2007
Nanoscale carbon, for example, is enabling greater efficiency and longer lifetimes for the familiar activated carbon water filter. Such filters are being fielded by start-ups like Seldon Labs and KX Industries. Meanwhile, nanoscale engineering by GE and start-ups like NanoH2O is helping make conventional semi-permeable membranes commonly used for filtration and desalination more efficient, more selective in what they filter and/or less prone to fouling.
Santa Monica, Calif.-based NanoH2O is aiming its membrane technology at the desalination sector, which currently delivers over 1 billion gallons per day, and is expected to more than double by 2015. Desalination removes salt by forcing water against a membrane to remove salts via reverse osmosis. The process requires a lot of energy, and only desalinates about half of the water flowing into the system. "So, the permeability of reverse osmosis membrane is key to improving capacity per unit cost--or on a capex basis," said Jeff Green, CEO of NanoH2O. His company's solution is to incorporate super-hydrophilic (i.e. water-loving) nanoparticles into a reverse osmosis membrane. The result is a membrane surface that favors water molecules, leading to higher throughput and significantly reduced energy costs.
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