Nanotechnology seems to be invading all facets of modern life, from the pills you take to the batteries that power your iPod. Pretty soon, carbon nanotubes may even filter your water.
Researchers at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in India are investigating the hollow carbon fibers as a potential water filter. They believe the unique chemical properties of nanotubes mean that only water molecules can pass through their interiors, while toxic metal ions, viruses, and bacteria cannot.
Additionally, the smooth, water-repellent interior of the nanotubes means that a filter made from the technology would have a high flow rate of water without fouling—so it would be very efficient.
But there’s still plenty of work to be done before carbon nanotubes are a viable option for filtering. The Indian research team is currently trying to engineer nanoscale structures to form arrangements that can efficiently decontaminate water.
With the rapid rise of contaminated drinking water around the world, solutions are desperately needed. Since poor countries are more likely to lack access to drinking water, a carbon nanotube filter will be most useful if it is both simple and cheap to operate and maintain. And if that massive hurdle is surpassed, developing nations may suddenly be a lot better off.