Graphene Continues Making Progress in Membrane Applications
It is believed that membranes may be one of the first significant commercial markets for graphene. Industries such as gas separation and water desalination could find use of graphene as a media for various membranes.
Back in 2011, researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, discovered that graphene possesses unexpected adhesion qualities that meant if you had layers of graphene they would stay attached to one another, making a membrane media that could be potentially useful for gas separation technologies..
It was a year later that researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in computer simulations revealed that nanoporous graphene could be used as a replacement for membrane materials currently used in the reverse osmosis water desalination processes. While the computer simulations were promising, it was thought to be a long way from a virtual graphene membrane to a real one.
Also last year, Lockheed Martin announced that it had developed and patented a graphene-based membrane that could be used for water desalination, called “Perforene.”
Since the announcement last year, not much more has been made clear about Peforene’s commercial aspirations, such as licensing or pilot testing. At the time the patent was granted, Lockheed Martin made it known that the material could be used in other applications such as capturing minerals.
Despite the difficult development process facing the MIT researchers, they were undaunted and in February of this year reported that they had developed a method for producing the nanoporous graphene that they had modeled 18 months earlier.
The graphene had pores per square centimeter that are well suited for filtration applications. However, it remains a rather difficult challenge to scale up the size of the graphene membranes where they would be suitable for large-scale water desalination plants. The membrane media will more likely find its initial applications in biofiltration of molecules, such as the removal of unreacted reagents from DNA.