Lockheed Martin Says This Desalination Technology Is An Industry Game-Changer; The problem is that current filters use plastic polymers that require an immense amount of energy (800 to 1,000 pounds per square inch of pressure) to push water through. Lockheed has developed a special material (graphene) that doesn’t need as much energy to drag water through the filter.

Lockheed Martin Says This Desalination Technology Is An Industry Game-Changer

Dina Spector | Mar. 22, 2013, 12:45 PM | 9,777 | 33

The latest technology for removing salt from seawater, developed by Lockheed Martinwill be a game-changer for the industry, according to Ray O. Johnson, senior vice president and chief technology officer of the jet and weapons manufacturer.

Desalination technology is used in regions of the world, particularly developing countries, where fresh water is not available. Water from oceans or rivers is diverted into treatment plants where the salt is removed and clean drinking water is produced through a process called reverse osmosis.

Imagine a tank with seawater on one side and pure water on the other, separated by a filter with billions of tiny holes. Lots of pressure on the salty side pushes water through faster than the salt, so fresh water comes out the other end.

The problem is that current filters use plastic polymers that require an immense amount of energy (800 to 1,000 pounds per square inch of pressure) to push water through.

Lockheed has developed a special material that doesn’t need as much energy to drag water through the filter.

Graphene is a substance made of pure carbon. Carbon atoms are arranged in a regular hexagonal or honeycomb pattern in a one-atom thick sheet.

This special material is a film of a special structure of carbon, a honeycomb lattice called graphene. Because of its structure, the sheet is dotted with holes that are one nanometer or less. These holes between carbon atoms trap the salt and other impurities.

Graphene researchers won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for developing the wonder-material.

In addition, the film is super thin — just a single atom thick — so that the water simply “pops through the very, very small holes that we make in the graphene and leaves the salt behind,” John Stetson, the chief technologist at Lockheed for this initiative told Business Insider.

Lockheed anticipates that their filters will be able to provide clean drinking water “at a fraction of the cost of industry-standard reverse osmosis systems,” their press release says. Water-poor regions of the world will be the first to benefit.

The perforated graphene is aptly called Perforene. Lockheed has the U.S. Patent on this technology and is currently pumping out “pretty big quantities of it” at Lockheed’s advanced technology center in Palo Alto, California, according to Stetson.

The Perforene has a smoky grey-color film that is translucent, even though its carbon, because it is so thin. It’s also about 1,000 times stronger than steel, but still has a permeability that is about 100 times greater than the best competitive membrane out in the market, said Stetson.

Perforene isn’t a game-changer, yet. Lockheed is still in the prototype stage. One challenge is figuring out how to scale up production. Graphene is cheap but it’s very delicate because of its thinness, also making it difficult to transfer.

Stetson says Lockheed is targeting to have a prototype to test in a reverse osmosis plant by 2014 or 2015, where they would simply be able to “plug in” the Perforene to replace the existing filter.

The great news is that this technology is not just limited to desalination plants. It can potentially be used for pharmaceutical filtration, dialysis, and gas separation, to a name a few other uses.

The possibilities are endless.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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