Water Purification Aerogel
Engineers from Princeton University have developed an aerogel, made using egg proteins, that can filter salts and microplastics from water at efficiency levels beyond those of typical charcoal-based carbon filters.
Credit: U.S. National Science Foundation
It is estimated that less than 3% of the water on the planet is considered fresh water and only a fraction of that is drinkable. The availability of potable drinking water is of vital importance. But what if something you had for breakfast turns out to be the key ingredient for improved water quality? We'll explore the future of water purification in the U.S. National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files."
Our current water systems have many possible sources of contamination. From naturally occurring chemicals and minerals to manufacturing and land use run offs or even malfunctions in the wastewater treatment process. There's also the issue of lead pipes in older systems and the seemingly endless amounts of microplastics we are finding in every corner of the planet.
Supported in part by NSF, engineers from the Princeton Materials Institute at Princeton University have developed an aerogel, made using egg proteins, that can be used as a filter at efficiency levels beyond those of typical charcoal-based carbon filters.
Made using freeze-dried and incinerated egg whites, this new aerogel has a complex porous structure of carbon fibers and graphene sheets that is able to remove 98% of salts and 99% of micro and nano plastics from seawater.
Further testing revealed a similar efficiency using commercially available proteins, so there is no threat to the food supply from this use. The next step is refining the fabrication process so it can be used in water purification on a large or global scale.
To hear more science and engineering news, including the researchers making it, subscribe to "NSF's Discovery Files" podcast.
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.
Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation.
Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.