The Pajaro Valley in California's Monterey Bay area is ideally suited for agriculture. In fact, the Pajaro Valley and the nearby Salinas Valley produce nearly half of the strawberries grown in the United States yearly. But, the water source for the valley is a confined underground aquifer that is slowly being depleted. A team headed by mathematicians Kathleen Fowler and Lea Jenkins has made significant progress in the creation of a virtual farm model to study alternative crop management strategies and their effect on water usage and profit. Find out more in this Science Nation video.
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"Nanotechnology: Super Small Science" is a six-part series that shows viewers how atoms and molecules that are thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair can be used as building blocks to create future technology. The series features a dozen world class American researchers, including quantum physicist and National Medal of Science winner Paul Alivisatos. Find out more in this Special Report.
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When oil and gas are extracted from the Earth, water also comes to the surface. Known as produced water, it contains naturally occurring hydrocarbons, salt, bacteria, radioactive material and other compounds, as well as any chemical additives used to ease extraction. Each year, the U.S. alone generates more than 21 billion barrels (approximately 900 billion gallons) of produced water from oil and gas extraction, including hydraulic fracturing. To treat this water before disposal or re-use, the industry depends on filtration and separation technologies. Find out more in this discovery.
Credit: FloDesign Sonics Inc.
The Division of Materials Research (DMR) in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences supports research focusing on advancing materials discovery, design, synthesis and characterization. Its awards enable understanding of the electronic, atomic and molecular mechanisms and processes that govern nanoscale to macroscale properties; manipulation and control of these properties; discovery of emerging phenomena of matter and materials; and creation of novel design, synthesis, and processing strategies that lead to new materials with unique characteristics. These discoveries and advancements transcend traditional scientific and engineering disciplines.
A synthetic membrane that self assembles and is easily produced may lead to better gas separation, water purification, drug delivery and DNA recognition, according to an international team of researchers.
October 3, 2016
New nanotechnology to produce sustainable, clean water for developing nations
This technology would enable communities to produce their own water filters using biomass nanofibers, making clean water more accessible and affordable
The world's population is projected to increase by 2-3 billion over the next 40 years. Already, more than three quarters of a billion people lack access to clean drinking water and 85 percent live in the driest areas of the planet. Those statistics are inspiring chemist Ben Hsiao and his team at Stony Brook University. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the team is hard at work designing nanometer-scale water filters that could soon make clean drinking water available and affordable for even the poorest of the poor.
Traditional water filters are made of polymer membranes with tiny pores to filter out bacteria and viruses. Hsiao's filters are made of fibers that are all tangled up, and the pores are the natural gaps between the strands. The team's first success at making the new nanofilters uses a technique called electrospinning to produce nanofibers under an electrical field.
Hsiao's team is also looking to cut costs even further by using "biomass" nanofibers extracted from trees, grasses, shrubs -- even old paper. Hsiao says it will be a few years yet before the environmentally friendly biomass filters are ready for widespread use in developing countries, but the filters will eliminate the need to build polymer plants in developing areas. Ultimately, those filters could be produced locally with native biomass or biowaste.
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1019370, Breakthrough Concepts on Nanofibrous Membranes with Directed Water Channels for Energy-Saving Water Purification.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.