New nanotechnology to produce sustainable, clean water for developing nations - Science Nation


Traditional water filters are made of polymer membranes with tiny pores to filter out bacteria and viruses. Hsiao's filters are made of fibers that are all tangled up, and the pores are the natural gaps between the strands. The team's first success at making the new nanofilters uses a technique called electrospinning to produce nanofibers under an electrical field.

Hsaio's team is also looking to cut costs even further by using "biomass" nanofibers extracted from trees, grasses, shrubs -- even old paper. Hsiao says it will be a few years yet before the environmentally friendly biomass filters are ready for widespread use in developing countries, but the filters will eliminate the need to build polymer plants in developing areas. Ultimately, those filters could be produced locally with native biomass or biowaste.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1019370, Breakthrough Concepts on Nanofibrous Membranes with Directed Water Channels for Energy-Saving Water Purification.