Another carbon nanotube desalination system launched

A carbon-nanotube technology for water desalination and other liquid-based-separations has been licensed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the USA exclusively to Porifera Inc of Hayward, California, a company set up in 2008 to market the technology.

The technology first took off when it was funded by LLNL’s Directed Research & Development Program and supported by the Science & Technology Principal Directorate. Bakajin and Noy’s research originally focused on using carbon nanotubes as a less expensive solution to desalination.

Carbon nanotubes are special molecules made of carbon atoms in a unique arrangement which allow liquids and gases to rapidly flow through, while the tiny pore size can block larger molecules, offering a cheaper way to remove salt from water. Porifera is developing membranes with vastly superior permeability, durability and selectivity for water purification and other applications in the clean-tech sector such as CO2 sequestration..

“The technology is very exciting,” said Olgica Bakajin, who serves as chief technology officer of Porifera. “It’s at the right place to take it to the marketplace.”

Bakajin formerly worked at LLNL, a national security laboratory, where she was recruited in 2000 as a Lawrence Fellow and then moved on to become chief scientist on the carbon nanotube project along with LLNL chemist Aleksandr Noy, another former LLNL Fellow. The license was awarded through LLNL’s Industrial Partnership Office.

In conjunction with other partners, Porifera has secured US$ 3.3 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a small, portable self-cleaning desalination system that could be used in the field.

“If we can really make this work it is a game-changing technology,” Bakajin said. “The goal is to go for any water…it could take out contaminants. It’s a real challenge, and the technology has great potential.”