State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

IBM’s Water Membrane

Scientists at IBM Research, together with collaborators from Central Glass, KACST and the University of Texas, Austin have created a new membrane that filters out salts as well as potentially harmful toxins in water such as arsenic while using less energy than other forms of water purification.

According to the press release, this materials in this new membrane are resistant to chlorine, which damage conventional material.

Bob Allen, manager of the water purification project at the IBM Almaden Research Center, adds, “The kind of research we’re doing, and the promising results we’re seeing, stand to create a whole new paradigm for how we manage natural resources such as water.”

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15 years ago

This is really interesting, and I’m all for improving water-purification technology, but I don’t agree with him that this would “create a whole new paradigm for how we manage natural resources.” Treating/transforming water to make it suitable for human use is the same thing we do with other natural resources: coal, oil, trees, etc. We extract it from the environment and somehow change it into a form that we can use. It goes without saying that for the most part these other natural resources are not used in the most eco-friendly manner. It’s been stated again and again- but just to reiterate- a water scarcity solution will need a combination of elements (government policy, private sector cooperation, agricultural reforms, etc.). I think relying too much on technology to make more water fit for human use could get us even deeper into trouble in the future.