BERKELEY, California - Researchers from the University of California-Berkeley have constructed a desalination centrifuge decorated with a nanoscale porous membrane that they claim can be easily scaled up for large scale industrial desalination operations.
Although “nanomaterial-based separation membrane technology” has been previously hailed as the game-changer in desalination technology, the obstacles of scalability and fouling have prevented real world, large-scale applications.
In this latest effort, researchers have designed the nanoscale porous membrane patches as part of the multiscale pore structure on the centrifuge.
This, they claim, will enable the development to be “readily fabricated for industrial scale desalination operation”.
The team of researchers, mainly consisting of graduate and undergraduate students, used molecular dynamics simulations to “demonstrate the molecular mechanism of the desalination process, providing the proof of concept of the novel design”.
During the simulations, the team found there was no fouling for the desalination centrifuge.
“It is found that the ion concentration does not go up when approaching to the membrane wall, instead, it goes down, because of the combination effects of the Coriolis force and salt rejection of the graphene membrane wall, which hints a great potential for such nano-porous membrane centrifuge”, according to the researchers.
The report will be published in the March 2018 issue of journal TECHNOLOGY.
Professor Shaofan Li of UC Berkeley, said: "Amid climate change and water-energy sustainability issues, the proposed nano-membrane centrifuge is a ground-breaking desalination technology with a self-cleaning mechanism and a significantly enhanced energy efficiency. Our preliminary results indicate that the graphene membrane centrifuge has a great potential to scale up and becomes the model for the next generation industrial desalination devices.''