It is impossible for human beings to survive without water. However, the steps involved in making it clean are not always clear. In addition, many people are not aware of the struggles to find drinkable water that are experienced by individuals all over the world.
As the shortage of potable water becomes a larger issue across the globe, the water treatment industry, which is projected to be worth in excess of $38 billion by 2025, is on a quest to find for new solutions. Nanotechnology is currently breaking new ground and providing innovative ways to filter and purify water to make it drinkable. Essentially, using nanotechnology for water purification uses nanoscopic materials like alumina fibers and carbon nanotubes for nanofiltration. For example, carbon nanotube membranes can be used to get rid of pretty much all types of water contaminants including organic contaminants, oil, turbidity, viruses and bacteria.
The Increasing Need for Potable Water
It had been estimated that by 2020, approximately two-thirds of all people on the planet would live in conditions where the scarcity of water would be an issue. Other estimates have shown that it is unlikely that the trend will be reversed and that by the middle of the century, an enormous part of the population could face major challenges accessing drinkable water.
New Filtration Techniques Could Effect Changes
Micro-filtration, ultra-filtration, reverse osmosis and filtering are the most commonly used water treatment techniques. They are effective; however, a high amount of energy is required to use them. In some cases, even huge volumes of chemical treatment agents are required. The production of these chemicals takes place in areas that have industrial infrastructure and then transported to rural regions; this is sometimes extremely difficult or impossible. Portable and cheap solutions that have the capacity to filter even small quantities of water are not always able to provide the elevated level of filtration required to get rid of particles such as bacteria and viruses and dust and sediment.
In addition, a lack of purification technology renders individuals, who do not have access to clean water, vulnerable to the adverse effects of consuming toxic micro plastics and chemicals, which could be present in locations where drinkable water is the scarcest. These types of populations are among the most susceptible and the most in need of portable and cost-effective solutions. The answer could be Nanotechnology.
Purifying Water at the Molecular Level
There are a number of different ways in which water can be polluted. These include pollution by salt, sediment, chemicals, heavy metals and bacteria. There are also many different sizes in which these pollutants exist and they can be totally mixed with or separate from the water. There are only a few filtration techniques that actually provide total purification.
The new nanotech solutions supply high levels of filtration and are portable. A number of different types of nanotechnology are there that are being utilized or currently being researched as potential water filtration systems. Carbon nanotubes are among the most popular kinds of nanotechnology and they are essentially cylindrical molecules comprising carbon atoms which are linked together in a single layer.
The look of the nanotubes is reminiscent of pieces of wire mesh or miniature lattices. They can effectively filter all sorts of things and these include water. Essentially, these nanotubes are filters which have molecule-sized openings. There is a nanotube that will allow water molecules to pass through but hinders pollutants.
There are some types of nanotechnologies that make use of ancient materials and zeolite is an example of this. Zeolite is basically a naturally-occurring mineral in which some scientists have taken an interest because of how well it serves as an adsorbent in water. This mineral can capture large and potentially hazardous molecules.
A number of other potential nanotech solutions are being developed, one of which is magnetic nanoparticles that is used to remove chemicals such as dye from water. Magnetization is involved and once used, this enables the safe separation of nanoparticles from the drinkable water.
A certain quantity of water is required by traditional water purification systems in order to work. However, nanotech purification systems operate at the nano level and as such, they should have the capacity to purify even small volumes of water. Rural and other hard-to-access areas, which are most likely to be impacted by scarcity, will especially benefit from this type of purification. In addition, several of these innovative nanotechnologies can be integrated into water filtration systems that currently exist.
The Future of Water Purification
More and more of the world’s population is finding it difficult to access clean, drinkable water and this trend is projected to continue well into the future. Revolutionary filtration and purification solutions are required and nanotechnology provides a possibility that excites a number of experts in the world of water treatment.
However, the manufacturing cost and the cost of materials could prevent the immediate use of nanotechnology. The technology is in its infancy and wide-scale fabrication of nanotech, particularly carbon nanotubes, is already implemented in some industries and possible for implementation elsewhere. The technology has promise, although it is less tested and more costly than other solutions.