Researchers have created a new ultrathin membrane only one molecule thick. The membrane can produce a hundred times more power from seawater than the best membranes used today. The researchers have published their findings in Nature Nanotechnology.
When fresh and saltwater meet, an exchange of salt and other particles takes place. A membrane placed in water is able to harness energy from particles moving from one side to the other.
How much power is generated depends on the thickness of the membrane and how porous it is. Researchers were able to create a carbon based membrane that is both porous and thin. That is why it can produce more energy than current membranes, which are either porous or thin, but not both.
To create this new membrane, researchers spread a large number of oily molecules on a water surface. These molecular building blocks then form a thin film on their own. By heating the film, the molecules are locked in place, creating a stable and porous membrane.
RESEMBLANCE TO GRAPHENE
The new carbon membrane is similar to graphene, a large flat membrane made up of only carbon atoms. Compared to graphene, it contains imperfections, but that’s what gives it its special properties.
This new membrane combines the best of both worlds. This new discovery opens up whole new possibilities for power generation, desalination and for building much more efficient fuel cells.