A team of researchers was able to transform seawater into drinking water in less than 30 minutes using sunlight and a metal-organic framework (MOF), according to the journal Nature Sustainability.
The team, led by Huanting Wang, professor at the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University (Australia), explained that, by using the MOF PSP-MIL-53, it was able to generate 139.5 litres of freshwater in a 24 hour period, with low energy consumption.
The result came after several experiments that involved desalination of water samples with dissolved solids (TDS) 2,233 ppm (parts per million) obtained from rivers, lakes and aquifers.
The World Health Organization establishes that to consider drinking water, it must contain a TDS of fewer than 600 parts per million. Using the PSP-MIL-53 MOF, the researchers achieved an index of fewer than 500 parts per million in just 30 minutes and even managed to regenerate the MOF for reuse in four minutes from solar energy.
Wang explained that this work opens the possibility to design stimulus-sensitive materials for energy-efficient and sustainable desalination and water purification.
“Desalination has been used to address water scarcity around the world. Due to the availability of brackish and sea water, and because desalination processes are reliable, the treated water can be integrated into existing aquatic systems with minimal risks to health,” he said.
The expert also highlighted that this desalination process provides an energy-efficient solution, making it sustainable from an environmental point of view. Thus, the research results have a wide range of applications in sustainable energy, focused on the efficient production and use of energy from compounds such as hydrogen, as well as the production of highly efficient biofuels.
The research also supports the sustainable manufacturing and recycling of lithium-ion batteries. Current lithium extraction technology is considered harmful to the environment, as it uses large amounts of chemicals, and lithium batteries are not recyclable.
Professor Wang’s work on lithium-ion conductive membranes could revolutionize lithium extraction processes and make the lithium battery recycling industry technologically and economically sustainable.
Organometallic lattices are a class of compounds consisting of metal ions that form a crystalline material with the largest surface area of any known material. They are so porous that they can fit on the surface of a soccer field in a small scoop.