Possibly a huge improvement in filtered desalinization.

Possibly a huge improvement in filtered desalinization.

Originally shared by David Brin

Cynics love to extrapolate while optimists look for game-changers. In my latest novel, I portray both spectra of personalities, each with some strong points to make… though only optimists get to see the most important waves of change coming. This year’s arrival of reasonably priced and stunningly efficient LED light bulbs, for example. (Businesses are doing whole-building replacements and you should start now in your heavily-lit areas.) That is a sub-game-changer, but important.  The fall in prices for solar energy can’t yet compete with the plummeting (in the US price of natural gas, but it is surprising cynics and could accelerate soon.

Now comes a piece of news that could matter. A lot. And it has to do with the latest wonder material that’s getting huge attention in Europe and across the industrialized world.  Graphene… a sheet-like molecular form of carbon, related to graphite the way a pile of organic sludge is similar to an Opera diva who can pitch a perfect game. I’ll leave for another time a listing of the uses being explored, from electronics to biochemistry. But one stands out as particularly hopeful. Using graphene to create ultra-thin membranes, engineers at Lockheed Martin have just announced a newly-developed salt filter that could reduce desalinization energy costs by 99 percent.

Desalinization typically employs a sheet of thin-film composite (TFC) membrane which is made from an active thin-film layer of polyimide stacked on a porous layer of polysulfone. The problem with these membranes is that their thickness requires the presence of large amounts of pressure (and energy) to press water through them. Lockheed Martin’s Perforene, on the other hand, is made from single atom-thick sheets of graphene. Because the sheets are so thin, water flows through them far more easily than through a conventional TFC.

Now if they can solve many problems (like tearing) and bring this on the market… the future will look brighter.