Water purification breakthrough uses sunlight and 'hydrogels'
Researchers from UT Austin Crockwell School of Engineering have developed a new cost effective desalination technology using combined gel-polymer hybrid materials. Guiha Yu, a UT Austin associate professor for material science and mechanical engineering, led the team of researchers.
Thanks to their experiment, the research team was able to produce clean, safe drinking water from any source through the use of hydrophilic and semiconducting Hydrogels -- a network of polymer chains known for its high water absorbency.
These hydrogel-based solar vapor generators use ambient solar energy to power the evaporation of water for effective desalination. While current solar steaming technologies for treating water involve a very costly process and are energy-extensive, these nanostructured gels only need naturally occurring levels of ambient sunlight to run, consuming far less less energy.
To prove the effectivity of hydrogels, UT engineers tested the hydrogels desalinating properties on water samples from the Dead Sea, one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth. The result achieved levels that met accepted drinking water standards outlined from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Researchers have also successfully demonstrated the hydrogels' capacity for filtering out a number of other common contaminants found in water that are considered unsafe for consumption. Read more about this groundbreaking discovery here.
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