Here at Office H2O, we’re in the business of making access to clean drinking water easier and more convenient. Taking that into consideration, we were interested to hear about one of the most recent innovations in methods used to filter water for consumption: graphene foam.

Researchers have developed a device that filters heavy metals – uranium in particular – from drinking water. With UNICEF estimating that as many as 1 in 3 people don’t have access to clean drinking water as of 2019, it’s clear that we should embrace these types of innovations that seek to offer a solution.

Today, Office H2O will be talking about using graphene foam to filter water, including why it is so important to filter out heavy metals such as uranium. We will also briefly discuss some of the greatest benefits of using graphene foam as a means of filtering drinking water.

The Impact of Uranium Contamination

While certain types of water pollution are easily visible, such as plastics and algal blooms, other types of contaminants aren’t as apparent. Uranium is one such contaminant that doesn’t lie in plain sight, which makes its impact potentially more dangerous than others. Uranium finds its way into drinking water through various means, including mining operations, natural subterranean deposits, and nuclear waste sites.

According to Ahmed Sami Helal, a postdoc in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, “many areas are affected by uranium contamination, including the High Plains and Central Valley aquifers, which supply drinking water to 6 million people” in the United States alone. Unfortunately, even small concentrations of uranium can be hazardous to human health. This includes toxic effects on the cardiovascular system, muscle, liver, and nervous system.

Combating Uranium Contamination with Graphene Foam

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who were led by Ju Li, the Battelle Energy Alliance Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering professor, have developed a graphene foam that has proven to be highly efficient in removing uranium from drinking water.

According to Li, the process can successfully purify a large quantity of water below the EPA limit for uranium within hours. Additionally, modifications can be made to the technique in order to filter out other types of metals as well. The technique came to light in a project which began three years ago. The aim of that project was to clean up heavy metals from mining sites using graphene oxide foam that would capture uranium from a solution when exposed to an electric charge.

Through the team’s effort, a strong and durable graphene foam was created that captures uranium. Additionally, the process is reusable and can function equally well with both seawater and drinking water. This makes it particularly valuable as it is highly adaptable. “Each time it’s used, our foam can capture four times its own weight of uranium, and we can achieve an extraction capacity of 4,000 mg per gram, which is a major improvement over other methods. We’ve also made a major breakthrough in reusability because the foam can go through seven cycles without losing its extraction efficiency,” says Li.

Eventually, the team believes that this device could be used for the home, fitting it onto taps and faucets for in-situ filtration that could improve upon activated carbon alternatives that are already in place. Li believes that, with time, this innovation could provide people with greater peace of mind about their drinking water. “There is a science to this, so we can modify our filters to be selective for other heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium,” Li concludes. “In the future, instead of a passive water filter, we could be using a smart filter powered by clean electricity that turns on electrolytic action, which could extract multiple toxic metals, tell you when to regenerate the filter, and give you quality assurance about the water you’re drinking.”

Embrace Cleaner Water with Office H2O

While this latest advancement in water filtration technology is yet to be available for home use, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t reliable methods that can offer you convenient access to clean drinking water. Here at Office H2O, we provide revolutionary bottleless water coolers that prioritize convenience, safety, and eco-friendliness.

Our systems utilize a 9-stage filtration process that easily removes particulates like dust, rust, lead, chlorine, and many other harmful chemicals and materials. Best of all, you can try an Office H2O bottleless water cooler free for 7 days to see the benefits. Browse our systems and then try one out for yourself! We can guarantee you’ll be happy that you did.

Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash