A defense contractor better known for building jet fighters and lethal missiles says it has found a way to slash the amount of energy needed to remove salt from seawater, potentially making it vastly cheaper to produce clean water at a time when scarcity has become a global security issue.
How does it work?
The process, officials and engineers at Lockheed Martin Corp say, would enable filter manufacturers to produce thin carbon membranes with regular holes about a nanometer in size that are large enough to allow water to pass through but small enough to block the molecules of salt in seawater. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.
Because the sheets of pure carbon known as graphene are so thin – just one atom in thickness – it takes much less energy to push the seawater through the filter with the force required to separate the salt from the water, they said.
So, is this a genuine prospect, or is it, to use a phrase from an earlier techno comment thread here, geek porn? Mead is careful to say that whereas such inventiveness is, in general, good, this particular inventiveness may come to nothing.
At most sites these days there are either too few comments to be bothering with, or far too many comments to be bothering with. Mead has no commenters at all to tell him if it makes sense to be optimistic about this new technique or not, and Instapundit only has occasional emailed-in updates.
Here, on the other hand, we not only do have comments, but we get a middlingly useful number of comments on most of our postings, and what is more comments that are often well worth reading, especially on subjects like this one.
So, might these carbon membranes work their water purification magic, or is this just hype?
LATER: Tim Worstall explains it a bit more, and there are some interesting comments there also.