Thirsty for knowledge?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.
Water desalination filters are like blocks of Swiss cheese. The holes let water through, but stop salt and pollutants. Filters like these could be the key to getting clean water to drought-stricken areas! But some filters work better than others.
Tyler Culp from Penn State and colleagues wondered why that’s so. To study the NANOSCALE structure of different commercial filters, they used a transmission electron microscope, or T.E.M. These use electrons to zoom in even further — think molecules or atoms!
Using T.E.M images, the team reconstructed 3-D models of filter materials and mapped their densities. Then, they used 3-D computer modeling to simulate water flow and compare these filters.
Results? The best filters were UNIFORM in density on the nanoscale. Imagine taking a bite of brownie versus a bite of fruitcake.
In water filters, uniformity is important so that flow is fast and constant. With these findings, Culp believes we can get cleaner water to those in need!
Reference: Culp, T. E., Khara, B., Brickey, K. P., Geitner, M., Zimudzi, T. J., Wilbur, J. D., Jons, S. D., Roy, A., Paul, M., Ganapathysubramanian, B., Zydney, A. L., Kumar, M., & Gomez, E. D. (2021). Nanoscale control of internal inhomogeneity enhances water transport in desalination membranes. Science, 371(6524), 72–75. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abb8518