Does nanotechnology improve the desalination process?

Does nanotechnology improve the desalination process?

As the world runs out of freshwater resources, it is important for big corporations and governments all around the world to focus on a sustainable supply of potable water. Today, a plethora of agencies and industry leaders have started investing in efficient desalination plants to counteract the lack of freshwater resources.

Although seawater desalination is a sustainable move, it requires more efficient practices to be put in place. One such practice is the use of nanotechnology for the improvement of the water desalination process.

NanoMaterials: A Bright Move into Saltwater Desalination Practices

Today, researchers are binging into the use of nanomaterials to make saltwater usable in regular lifestyles. Although this process is considered particularly expensive, nanotech is something that might change things completely, bringing cost-effective measures into the scenario.

As per the United States Geological Survey, about 96.5% of the water on our Earth is in the oceans. However, this is saltwater and surely isn’t drinkable. With the remaining 3.5 percent, the distribution pattern isn’t even, and there is a problem in the quality & supply chain.

To counteract this, nanotechnology can help fasten the process.

Here is how nanotechnology helps improve the desalination process.

1. Allows Easier Water Flow Via Membranes:

Most of the efficient desalination plants that make use of nanotechnology use RO technology for the filtration process. The addition of carbon nanotubes into the filtration membranes can fasten the desalination process. Membranes with dense polymer-based films loaded with carbon-based nanotube pores can help with in-depth desalination while reducing the overall cost factor.

Given the fact that the interior of the carbon nanotubes has smooth make, the water is then transported easily. Although these nanopores allow the water to pass out with ease, they efficiently stop the salt ions, which makes them ideal for desalination. Bringing on board this method inefficient desalination plants can help reduce the overall energy requirements for desalination by a whopping 30-50%.

2. Bacterial Population Reduction:

Today, more and more filtration units are adding nanoparticles to the filtration membrane for optimization of the charge and surface roughness. This helps with an efficient reduction of bacterial multiplication in the water and thereby reducing contamination. Given the fact that bacteria present on the filtration membrane is known to reduce the water passage, elimination of bacteria in this membrane suggests that you might not have to shut down your system completely for the purpose of cleaning while ensuring efficient desalination plants filtration.

3. Explore the Capacitive Deionization:

A better version of the desalination method termed capacitive deionization brings in the potential to be a cost-effective option as compared to reverse osmosis. This deionization cell packs in 2 electrodes, of which one is positively charged while the other is negatively charged.

These electrodes are charged this way because salt packs in positive and negative ions. Given the fact that opposite charges attract each other, the negative ions are attracted by the positive electrode & the same applies to the positive ions as well. To simplify it, in case you dissolve table salt or sodium chloride in water, the chloride and sodium will form charged ions that are negative and positive.

As the seawater passes through the cells, the ions formed by salt attach to these charged electrodes & the deionized water tends to leave from the end of this cell. Moreover, this particular technique doesn’t require the use of high pressure in order to push water via the filtration membranes, as seen in the RO methodology.

This makes it way less expensive & doesn’t use a lot of power.

Today, researchers are creating electrodes packed with nanomaterials in order to enhance the surface area of the electrodes. This eventually increases the speed with which the cell can efficiently remove the salt ions present in seawater.

Nanotechnology: Why is it important?

Another interesting technique to fasten the desalination process is to use the electrodes that are constructed using graphene flakes.  This is a low-cost deionization system that makes use of nanostructured electrodes for efficient desalination plants.

Nanomaterials come with a range of physiochemical properties, making them particularly attractive to be used as a separation media in the water purification process. In terms of mass, this technology comes with a much larger surface area as compared to bulk particles.

Nanomaterials are also ideal to be used with multiple chemical groups to ensure increase affinity towards any given compound. This process can also be used o function as a high capacity or selective recycling option for radionuclides, metallic ions, inorganic or organic solutions, and any other aqueous solutions.

Further, nanomaterials are known to provide unprecedented opportunities for the development of an efficient water-purification process that covers a larger surface area that is shape & size-dependent with catalytic and electronic properties.

Today, nanomaterials are used in the development of chlorine-free biocides via functionalization, including the chemical groups known to selectively target the key bio-constituents of water-based viruses or bacteria populations.


All-in-all, nanotechnology can provide a novel opportunity for the development of a rather efficient & cost-effective nanostructured membrane that is reactive in nature for complete water purification & desalination. Nanomaterials that are ideal for efficient desalination plants include graphene, metal oxides, & carbon nanotubes.