What does the perfect summer’s day look like? How about downing a big glass of murky Sydney Harbour water during golden hour.
Whilst it’s not exactly the first beverage one would consider (you know, incase you die), researchers at the CSIRO have gone ahead with the experiment and discovered a way to filter Sydney Harbour’s water down to a safe and drinkable standard.
Dr Dong Han Seo, Dr Adrian Murdock and Dr Zhao Jun Han took water samples directly from Sydney Harbour and trialled it on a new invention known as Graphair, CSIRO’s own patented compound made from the wonder material known as graphene.
Graphene on its own is rather intriguing. It’s had starring roles as Iron Man’s face armour in comic books, but in the real world it’s also known as one of the strongest materials ever created from a single layer of carbon atom. In final form to the naked eye it’s an ultra thin and entirely transparent structure – like sticky tape.
In the CSIRO’s interest, graphene is also water repellant which makes it perfect for water filtration. Sydney Harbour water was scooped up and taken back to the labs where it was tested with Graphair to surprsing results.
Water contaminants would normally pose a problem for traditional water filters without Graphair. This happens when chemicals or oil based substances clog up the filter pores, preventing any of the clean water from passing through. This resulted in extra filtration via a two stage process, making it both time consuming and expensive.
With Graphair coated on the standard water filter’s membrane, there were no clogs and improved levels of filtration from contaminants. More specifically, researchers from the University of Sydney, UTS, QUT and Victoria University found that without Graphair, the membrane’s filtration rate halved in 72 hours.
That’s pretty damn impressive for something that’s made out inexpensive soybean oil, most often found in vegetable oil (yes, the stuff in your kitchen pantry). So what does all this breakthrough research mean for the perennially perched?
Safe and clean drinking water for 2.1 billion people in the world who don’t have access to it. As for drinking the murky stuff of Sydney Harbour, we’ll let the enthusiastic guinea pigs at it first.