Graphene nanotechnology makes desalination 100 times more efficient

graphene_molecule_sheetEngineers at Lockheed-Martin recently developed and patented a molecular filtration membrane called Perforene which can desalinate seawater using only 1/100th the energy of the best existing desalination systems.

Perforene is made from graphene, the exciting new nanomaterial which comes in the form of one-atom thick sheets of carbon atoms. Like an overzealous nanotechnology, graphene seems to photobomb itself in as the solution to numerous environmental problems such as, storing electricity, removing air pollution, advanced photovoltaics, high strength materials and now desalinating water.

Under a microscope, this material looks like a mesh net with holes as small as one hundred nanometer. These holes are small enough to block the chlorine and sodium ions in salt water but large enough to allow pure water molecules to pass through.

The material was invented by Lockheed engineer. In an interview with Reuters, Stetson said that this new material is 1000 times stronger than steel and 500 times thinner than the best existing reverse osmosis desalination filter.

He said, “The energy that’s required and the pressure that’s required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less.”

Why desalinating water is not energy efficient

Desalination typically uses at least 3 kilowatt-hours per cubic meter. To put this into familiar terms, filling a 2 liter bottle with desalinated water consumes the same amount of energy as running a 15-watt compact fluorescent light for 24 minutes.

The energy required to purify two liters of freshwater would only run the same light for less than two minutes.

This may not seem like a lot of energy, but it adds up.

According to information published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the world’s desalination plants consume approximately 360 million kilowatt-hours each day. Because of their gluttonous energy consumption, desalination plants are nearly always collocated with electrical power generating stations.

Nuclear power is often used. But in a bit of political doublespeak, the desalination plants are said to generate electricity. Electricity “generated” by existing desalination plants is only the excess energy produced by the collocated power plant that hasn’t been consumed.

If unconsumed energy is the same things as producing energy, Lockheed-Martin’s desalination technology might become one of the most important sources of energy and water in the Middle East.  The company is seeking commercialization partners and hopes begin manufacturing this amazing new material in 2015.

Image of graphene molecular sheet via shutterstock

About Brian Nitz

Brian remembers when a single tear dredged up a nation's guilt. The tear belonged to an Italian-American actor known as Iron-Eyes Cody, the guilt was displaced from centuries of Native American mistreatment and redirected into a new environmental awareness. A 10-year-old Brian wondered, 'What are they... No, what are we doing to this country?' From a family of engineers, farmers and tinkerers Brian's father was a physics teacher. He remembers the day his father drove up to watch a coal power plant's new scrubbers turn smoke from dirty grey-back to steamy white. Surely technology would solve every problem. But then he noticed that breathing was difficult when the wind blew a certain way. While sailing, he often saw a yellow-brown line on the horizon. The stars were beginning to disappear. Gas mileage peaked when Reagan was still president. Solar panels installed in the 1970s were torn from roofs as they were no longer cost-effective to maintain. Racism, public policy and low oil prices transformed suburban life and cities began to sprawl out and absorb farmland. Brian only began to understand the root causes of "doughnut cities" when he moved to Ireland in 2001 and watched history repeat itself. Brian doesn't think environmentalism is 'rocket science', but understanding how to apply it within a society requires wisdom and education. In his travels through Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East, Brian has learned that great ideas come from everywhere and that sharing mistakes is just as important as sharing ideas.

17 thoughts on “Graphene nanotechnology makes desalination 100 times more efficient

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  4. scotty bumbalough

    I would like to bring this to your attention and perhaps enlist some assistance from you in this matter. This is a severe abuse of Nanotechnology and this is a copy of my letter to the DOD regarding this nanotechnology being misused.

    I have this nano technology in my possession and need someone from the DOD to pick it up.

    I have been under satellite surveillance since March of 2015 by TASC Inc and their GeoSpatial Intelligence program this was started by Michael Harrar (the father of my former girlfriend Veronica Kline). The surveillance is taking place at my home address of 1650 N. Mills Ave #160 Orlando, coordinates 28° 34′ 031 N / 81° 21′ 933 W. The transmission is still active 24 hours a day and at the same coordinates and can be easily detected and traced. Three methods of detection are: 1. Satellite signal detection / signal being used is a pulse signal. 2. Electromagnetic field detection, used in combination with the nano drones. 3. Frequency detection, rapid frequency flucuations are used to evade detection the range is from 20 to 20,000 Hz.

    I am a US Army Veteran with a background in communication and encryption who has been under illegal and warrantless surveillance by TASC Inc & Michael Harrar since March the 9th. This surveillance is in the form of a Satellite driven X-band pulse frequency Nano Drone Program. I have contacted the FBI, CIA, Federal Judges, TASC Inc and multiple other agencies. My attorney has called TASC Inc. and the secretary stated that Michael Harrar does not work there, he left in March as part of a cover up for the surveillance campaign that is still taking place. We have also contacted Anthony Smeraglinolo via telephone and US mail with no response. This torture / harassment and interrogation style surveillance continues day in and day out 24 hours a day with inner ear pulse communication and daily nano laser treatment in an electromagnetic field created by the satellite signal and the nano drones. This method of interrogation is the same as used in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. This treatment is designed to extract memories that are then transmitted to a nano drone to a satellite and then back to Washington DC or Chantilly VA. to a TASC Inc operations center computer with what I estimate to be 16,000 to 18,000 processors. This method of metadata collection from the mind is called Neuromorphic engineering and technology. This also has the capacity to read thoughts in real time while the operator and or a Neuromorphic Computing Researcher uses this information to manipulate normal brain activity.

    Here is a complete description of the method being used.

    2mm sphere – this sphere is Omni-directional and is remotely controlled via satellite and uses electromagnetics as its power source. I have determined that the satellite being used may be C4ISR.
    Light bending technology – Enables a cloaking effect and makes the sphere unrecognizable or what the nonscientific mind would call invisible. It can only be noticed by the naked eye if it is a trained eye.
    Nano Camera – This camera is equipped for surveillance purposes which transmits real time back to TASC Inc. operator Michael Harrar.
    Electromagnetic wave generator – This Nano Drone is equipped with electromagnetic wave capacity that can send pulses for communication purposes or inner ear harassment. These units can be put together in multiples and work in unison to create a more intense and focused wave than can contract muscles of the body and even cause organ failure, heart attacks and death. The electromagnetic field also can create a field much like a MRI for Geospatial data & intelligence gathering from the human mind and body.
    Three dimensional body data analyzer – This equipment is used for body scans in a three dimensional format including scans of the human brain. The capabilities of this specific piece of the technology has much greater capabilities that include full readings of vital signs and real time information on brain activity including access to past memories via neural pathways and dendrites which are activated by Nano Lasers. Patent number US 5531520 A – TASC Inc.
    Frequency range – Using X band this company uses continuous wave and pulsed wave frequencies. In my case the left ear and right ear had two different frequencies. In my left ear the range of pulse there are words / sentences designed to interrupt normal brain activity. The right ear has words and sentences that are a level that can only be detected with ear plugs at a much lower frequency level. The technique used is most often with the lower tone mentioning something just below the conscious level and then the left ear has another message at a higher frequency that is much more distinguishable.
    Neuromorphic Engineering – Using the spherical drone an electromagnetic field can be created and a small Nano laser is used to activate neural pathways for the gathering of metadata from the mind. This information is transmitted to the drone and then to a satellite and processed by a large group of processors allowing TASC Inc to store an entire data bank of memories and it also allows them to detect thought impulses in real time.
    Why is the campaign of Domestic Terrorism being allowed to continue with TASC’s satellite in ongoing surveillance and harassment in excess of 6 months. Program headed by Michael Harrar & TASC’s X-band satellite pulse transmission check coordinates 28° 34′ 031 N / 81° 21′ 933 W – current domestic terrorism campaign being carried out by Michael Harrar and TASC Inc. these Nano Drones have had me under surveillance for six months straight and follow me all day via the TASC Inc. satellite.

    This surveillance device has also followed me into the Federal Courthouse in Orlando, NASA, the Orlando International Airport and the local FBI office in Maitland, Patrick Air Force base airspace on the 19th and 20th of August at 0730 and at Rollins College where I am a student and the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, Windermere Country club, Deland Airport, Charlotte International Airport, Nashville International Airport. The company responsible for this technology is TASC Inc and the party responsible is Michael Harrar (Top secret security clearance).

    This Domestic Terrorism campaign must be stopped immediately and these criminals need to be brought to justice. I have these devices in my possession and I would like someone from the DOD to come and pick them up.

    Scotty Bumbalough


    This incident of Domestic Terrorism has been reported to the following:
    Secret Service
    All Major Nano Labs in America
    All Major Nanotech colleges in the US
    Navy Command
    Army Command
    Air Force Command
    Marine Command
    Every major News channel and paper in America
    ***TASC Inc’s geospatial intelligence interrogators are currenlty working with Federal Investigators.

    *This is the exact activity reported by Aaron Alexis prior to his Washing Navy Yard shooting. He heinous crimes were committed at his former workplace, Washington Navy Yard Bldg 197, TASC Inc is also one of the contractors in this building. I suspect this Nanotechnology was used to harrass him in order to drive him to commit crimes so TASC Inc. (who was in bankruptcy at the time) could get additional DOD contracts. It is my assumption that they may be using this technology to create domestic terror events for profit.

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  8. Brian Nitz Post author

    James and Ike, thanks for pointing this out. I also wondered where John Stetson found the two orders of magnitude. Was Maxwell’s demon working overtime? It now appears that in the original interview he was speaking of of 100 times better permeability which as James mentioned, is not the same as 100 times better energy efficiency. Thanks for the correction. Perhaps someone at Lockheed Martin would like to comment?

  9. James

    This is really poor journalism. You have uncritically repeated a company’s claim without making any attempt to balance that against fundamental science. Graphene and Carbon Nano Tubes show substantially better flux rates for water than conventional membrane material, meaning you have an increase in permeability. While superficially that might seem equitable to energy, it is not, because when you are desalinating using reverse osmosis you have to overcome the osmotic pressure in addition to any friction in the membrane structure (the minimum energy required to desalt sea water (33 g/l) is around 1 kwh/m3). Also when you increase permeability, guess what? You decrease salt ion rejection, making a results comparison between these systems inaccurate. These new nanotechnologies show interesting potential in reducing energy, but at more modest rates like 10-15% (which is still a big deal). Here is a much more critical article that appeared in science on the subject:

    • Ike Kiefer


      I was about to add a similar comment when I saw yours. Good to see there are a few folks out there who really understand the physics and won’t fall victim to the snake oil claims like the credulous author of this piece.

      The theoretical minimum energy that must be input to reduce the entropy and sort fresh water water molecules from brine at a 50% recovery rate is 1.06 kWh/m3. Factoring in a generous 60% thermal efficiency in converting heat energy into mechanical sorting energy via pumping through a maximally permeable RO membrane would require 1.77 kWh/m3 for that ideal process. The current state of the art for seawater desalination is 3.17 kWh/m3, so there is only about a 44% improvement that can be made regardless of the technological approach, not a factor of 100.

      Lockheed Martin is also now claiming to have invented a compact nuclear reactor that will change the world in ten years ( ). They must have adopted Vinod Khosla or Elon Musk as their press agent. If not careful, L-M is going to become the P.T. Barnum of technology companies.

  10. Neil Farbstein

    Thats a really great invention that will change the world. California and the western US are drying up. A lot of farmers might quit next year if the drought continues a fourth year in a row. Vulvox Nanobiotechnology is working on ultra strong nanomaterials that can be used in membrane applications. Stronger membranes can stand higher pressure.

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