Filtering and treating water, both for human consumption and to clean industrial and municipal wastewater, accounts for about 13 percent of all electricity consumed in the U.S. every year and releases about 290 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. New research demonstrates that liquid-gated membranes (LGMs) filter nanoclay particles out of water with twofold higher efficiency, nearly threefold longer time-to-foul and a reduction in the pressure required for filtration over conventional membranes. One of the most common methods of processing water is passing it through a membrane with pores that are sized to filter out particles that are larger than water molecules. However, these membranes are susceptible to “fouling,” or clogging by the very materials they are designed to filter out. This problem necessitates more electricity to force the water through a partially clogged membrane and frequent membrane replacement, both of which increase water treatment costs. The new research into LGMs could lead to a solution that could reduce the cost and electricity consumption of high-impact industrial processes such as oil and gas drilling.
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