Safe drinking water

Tobias, a recipient of a donor-funded Research Impact Scholarship, is examining ways of using graphene to allow those in the developing world to access clean water.

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“97% of global water is salty water. Only 3% is drinkable and only a small fraction of that is actually drinkable without pollutants, so there is a great need to find solutions and provide fresh drinking water to people.”

Tobias Bohn, a PhD student at The University of Manchester and recipient of a donor-funded Research Impact Scholarship, is examining ways of using graphene to allow those in the developing world to access clean water.

The need, and the urgency with which this must be addressed, is clear.

“A UN water development report in 2015 projected that, by 2030, there will be a global freshwater shortage of more than 40%. This is an alarming number, especially for rural and developing countries where the infrastructure is not sufficiently advanced to produce safe drinking water.”

A cheaper, energy-efficient alternative

At present, the standard methods of water purification are expensive to maintain and also costly in terms of the energy required to operate the technology.

Tobias is using graphene in the process of desalinating water. This involves the removal of salts and other pollutants from water so that it is safe for human consumption.

“I am focusing on using graphene-based membranes for water purification so that we can provide cheaper, more energy-efficient membranes to allow a more widespread usage of this technology around the world.

“Currently, we use polymer membranes for water purification which are not very stable under harsh conditions and require regular cleaning. Graphene has unique properties and graphene-based membranes would offer a cheaper, more energy-efficient alternative.”

Continuing to discover ways in which graphene can benefit our lives

Inspired by the innovative and pioneering graphene-based research that has been carried out here at Manchester since its discovery in 2004, Tobias hopes to have found another exciting use of this incredibly unique material.  

“It’s exciting to be conducting graphene-based research at the University where it was first discovered. There are potentially so many ways of applying the material to benefit our lives in the future, for example graphene-based solar panels for windows. We’ve even made a shoe out of graphene!”

“At the moment, we are conducting further research into the membrane properties of graphene to understand how salt permeation works through those membranes.

We have discovered that we can potentially use those membranes for desalination and removal of pharmaceuticals and pollution. The challenge now is how we can scale up those results in terms of the size of membrane so that we can use them for water filtration.”

Research Impact Scholarship

Tobias’ Research Impact Scholarship is funded by many generous donors to the University. These scholarships are awarded to PhD students who are conducting ground-breaking research that has the potential to have a monumental impact on the world and address some of society’s biggest issues.

That Tobias was awarded the scholarship has given him even more confidence in his research and the impact it could have on the developing world.

“My scholarship helps me be creative and experiment, which is very important. I try to be up-to-date with current research and sometimes I see new findings I didn’t expect so I have to adjust my approach. It’s unique to have the opportunity to follow my intuitions based on results.”

Without donations, I simply would not be here. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be able to carry out this research, which is so important for the future. To everyone who donates and has given me this opportunity, I would like to say thank you.”

Watch the video below to see Tobias demonstrate how he conducts his innovative research

2 thoughts on “Safe drinking water

  1. Brilliant concept, I can see so many applications here in Indonesia, especially for the many small islands. I would love to know more.

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