Researchers from Monash University, in collaboration with CSIRO and the University of Texas at Austin, are working on a technology that will work on running seawater through a filter which can give you clean drinkable water and creating enough power to run your smartphone or electric car using a material called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs).
MOFs are a sponge-like material that has the largest internal surface area of any known substance, which gives it the ability to capture, store and release chemicals at the atomic level. They are composed of designer synthetic crystals cooked up by chemists by stitching inorganic molecules together with organic molecules.
Their structures can also be tweaked to do different things, such as capturing carbon dioxide or delivering drug therapies. In this case, the MOF is fashioned into a device to remove the salt and lithium ions from seawater.
What this offers is a more energy-efficient, sustainable and cost-effective way to filter seawater (and other liquids) than current technologies, opening the door for breakthrough advances in the water and mining industries. The utility of MOFs in meeting global shortages of drinkable water is obvious: according to the World Health Organization, almost a third of the world’s population-some 2.1 billion people-lack access to safe drinking water. Millions die every year for reasons related to inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.
Improvements that make it possible to produce more clean water, faster and more cheaply, would go a long way to help fill the supply gap and save lives.
More so, MOFs also show promise in meeting the power needs of Asia’s burgeoning populations, and the surging demand for green vehicles.
Southeast Asians are some of the most rampant consumers of electronics. On mobile phones alone, they spend an average 3.6 hours on mobile internet a day--the most in the world. The average American spends two hours, and the British 1.8 hours.
To battle sprawling pollution and modernize energy sources, Asian governments are also investing heavily to incentivize electric vehicle adoption. China alone bought up half of all electric cars sold in 2017, and the government wants one in five new cars sold--35 million--to be electric by 2025, while India is aiming to only sell electric cars in the country from 2030.