The CSIRO has invented a simple filter which makes even Sydney Harbour water drinkable

Dr Dong Han Seo. Image: CSIRO

Australian scientists have created a simple and fast way to filter water to make it drinkable.

The technique pioneered by CSIRO researchers is so effective that water from Sydney Harbour was safe to drink after passing through the filter.

The filter, announced in the journal Nature Communications, has microscopic nano-channels that let water pass through but stop pollutants.

The material used is called Graphair, a type of graphene, the world’s strongest material, and is made from soybean oil.

“This technology can create clean drinking water, regardless of how dirty it is, in a single step,” says the paper’s lead author, CSIRO scientist Dr Dong Han Seo.

“All that’s needed is heat, our graphene, a membrane filter and a small water pump. We’re hoping to commence field trials in a developing world community next year.”

Almost a third of the world’s population, 2.1 billion people, don’t have clean and safe drinking water.

“In Graphair we’ve found a perfect filter for water purification. It can replace the complex, time consuming and multi-stage processes currently needed with a single step,” says Dr Seo.

The breakthrough potentially solves one of the great problems with current water filtering methods.

Over time, chemical and oil based pollutants coat and impede water filters, meaning contaminants have to be removed before filtering can begin. Tests showed Graphair continued to work even when coated with pollutants.

CSIRO is looking for industry partners to scale up the technology so it can be used to filter a home or even a town’s water supply.

It’s also investigating other applications such as the treatment of seawater and industrial effluents.