Global crowd sourced computing has been used to create clean water using nanotubes

Nanotube filtration. Supplied by University of Sydney.

Scientists used crowd sourced computing to help discover a new method of improving water filtration and water quality.

More than 150,000 computer volunteers worldwide, which together created a network able to simulate water flow in carbon nanotubes at very low speeds, were used in the research.

The computing power involved is the equivalent of up to 40,000 years of processing on a single PC.

The team’s discovery has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Nanotubes are long and hollow structures with the walls formed by one atom thick sheets of carbon.

The research was led by the Centre for Nano and Micro Mechanics (CNMM) at Tsinghua University in Beijing with international partners including researchers from the University of Sydney.

“Prior to our project, simulations of water flow in carbon nanotubes could only be carried out under unrealistically high flow-rate conditions,” says the Director of CNMM, Quanshui Zheng.

The paper’s lead author Ming Ma, a PhD from Tsinghua University, was also a visiting scholar at the University of Sydney working with nanotechnology expert Associate Professor Luming Shen on the research.

“The project’s results have important implications for desalination and energy conversion using salinity gradients,” says co-author Associate Professor Shen.

By simulating water molecules flowing through nanotubes, he researcher showed how vibrations result in oscillating friction, leading to enhancements in the rate of water diffusion of more than 300.

This will help design new carbon nanotube based membranes for water filtration with reduced energy consumption.

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