Editorial Feature

GRAPHIL: The Future of Innovative Portable Household Water Filters

Image Credit: Merkushev Vasiliy/Shutterstock.com

GRAPHIL, the new Spearhead project, brings together Icon Lifesaver (UK), Medica SpA (Italy) and Polymem S.A (France) along with other academic partners, Chalmers Institute of Technology (Sweden), Manchester University (UK), and the National Research Council (Italy). The consortium is committed to the production of innovative filters for household water treatment. 

According to WHO and UNICEF, 2.2 billion people lacked access to safe drinking water in 2019 (United Nations, n.d.). Each year, approximately 88% of the four billion worldwide annual cases of diarrhea have been attributed to a lack of safe drinking water (Schroth, Lanfair, & Ambulkar, n.d.).

The Graphil project responds to the urgency of producing an easy to use microfiltration membrane that can be connected directly onto a household sink or used as a portable device for water purification. The filter is expected to go into the market in 2023 and can remove contaminants, pesticides, heavy metals, and dangerous pathogens from drinking water (Graphene Flagship, 2019). 

Water Purification

The undesired chemical compounds, organic and inorganic materials, and biological contaminants, such as suspended particles, parasites, bacteria, algae, viruses, and fungi are removed from water through multiple physical, chemical, or biological processes (Schroth, Lanfair, & Ambulkar, n.d.).

In the United States, the safety of drinking water quality is regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whereas the European Union is regulated by Article 10 of the EU Drinking Water Directive (Directive 98/83/EC) (European Drinking Water, n.d.). On 18 February 2020, the environment and public health committee updated the EU rules of drinking tap water, which is expected to update quality standards and sets out minimum hygiene requirements for materials in contact with drinking water (European Parliament, 2020).

In Europe, most countries use chlorine as a drinking water disinfectant since the discovery of water disinfectant abilities in 1905 by the London Metropolitan Water Board. The U.S quickly followed the use of Chlorine, reaching 64% of all community water systems by 1995 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). According to the WHO, the standard drinking water state is 2-3 mg/L chlorine to achieve satisfactory drinking water (Lenntech, n.d.). 

Portable Water Filtration

The filter membrane performance depends on the amount of water passing through the membrane per unit of time and surface area, and the concentration ratio of a component between the filtered particles and the feed water solution.

Following the discovery of Graphair (Smith, 2020), a conventional one-step water filtration system by a team of scientists from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), graphene has successfully entered as a competitive next-generation solution for the portable water purification process. Graphair is a 4 cm2 graphene film filtration membrane with microscopic nano-channels that prevents larger contaminants such as salt enter the water (Bold Business, 2018). The filter was proved to be low-cost, removing 99% of impurities faster than other conventional filters without using chlorine. 

Graphene as a Water Filter Membrane

Graphene's large surface area, versatile surface chemistry, and exceptional mechanical properties allow it to bind ions and metals. This process reduces the number of inorganic contaminants in water. The graphene-based membrane also offers a simpler setup compared to other traditional membranes, such as reverse osmosis and microfiltration train systems, leading to lower operating pressure and maintenance costs for end-users.

Last year, the researchers from Russia's National University of Science and Technology (MISiS), Derzhavin Tambov State University, and Saratov Chernyshevsky State University experimented with graphene oxide to purify water by injecting graphene oxide into E. coli containing saline solutions. The results demonstrated the bacterias forming flakes inside the solution along with the graphene oxide, which can be easily extracted, making water free of bacteria (Smart Water Magazine, 2019).

Find out more about graphene and graphene-based products here

Household Water Filtering

The Water Resource Group notifies that the worldwide water supply-to-demand gap is likely to reach approximately 40% by 2030, which warns the issue of water scarcity to be a worldwide priority.

Although already-existing water filtration methods shown in the following table have controlled the market (European Commision, 2010), they are expensive, complicated or highly inaccurate, which prevents most parts of the world from getting access to clean drinking water. (Shull, 2012):

Filtration Method Particle Capture Size Contaminants Removed
Microfiltration 0.1-10 µm  suspended solids, bacteria, protozoa
Ultrafiltration ca.0.003-0.1 µm colloids, proteins, polysaccharides, most bacteria, viruses (partially)
Nanofiltration ca.0.001 µm viruses, natural organic matter, multivalent ions
Reverse Osmosis ca.0.0001 µm almost all impurities, including monovalent ions

 

The Graphil project has helped to develop affordable and easy to use portable or household water filters. According to Mrs. Letizia Bocchi, who is the leader of the project, their filters are made with hollow plastic fiber membranes blended with graphene to enhance the adsorption of chemical contaminants (Diamante, 2020). Once completed, the Graphil filters could be directly mounted on a household water filtration system or portable water purifier devices, which also means a reduction in bottled water consumption, contributing to positive environmental impacts.

References and Further Reading

Bold Business. (2018). Graphair Water Filter — A Graphene Film Making Polluted Water Drinkable. [Online] Bold Business: https://www.boldbusiness.com/health/graphair-water-filter-polluted-drinkable/ (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Disinfection with Chlorine. [Online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/public/chlorine-disinfection.html (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

Diamante, L. (2020). Spotlight: Exploring Graphil’s graphene-based water filters with Letizia Bocchi. [Online] Graphene Flagship: https://graphene-flagship.eu/news/Pages/Spotlight-Exploring-Graphil%E2%80%99s-graphene-based-water-filters-with-Letizia-Bocchi.aspx (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

European Commision. (2010). Membrane technologies for water applications. Brussels. doi:10.2777/25163

European Drinking Water. (n.d.). Background. [Online] from European Drinking Water: https://www.europeandrinkingwater.eu/initiative/background/ (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

European Parliament. (2020). Drinking water in the EU: better quality and access. [Online] News European Parliament: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20181011STO15887/drinking-water-in-the-eu-better-quality-and-access (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

Graphene Flagship. (2019). Purifying Europe’s Water with Graphene Filtration. [Online] Graphene Flagship: https://graphene-flagship.eu/project/spearhead/Pages/GRAPHIL.aspx (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

Lenntech. (n.d.). Water Treatment. [Online] Lenntech: https://www.lenntech.com/processes/disinfection/chemical/disinfectants-chlorine.htm (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

Schroth, S. T., Lanfair, J. K., & Ambulkar, A. (n.d.). Water Purification. [Online] Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/water-purification/Other-purification-steps (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

Shull, A. (2012). The Design and Creation of a Portable Water Purification System. [Online] Andrews University: https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/honors/39 (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

Smart Water Magazine. (2019). How to purify water with graphene? [Online] Smart Water Magazine: https://smartwatermagazine.com/news/national-university-science-and-technology-nust-misis/how-purify-water-graphene (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

Smith, B. (2020). Graph Air: Revolutionary Water Filtration Using Graphene. [Online] AZoM: https://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=19275 (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

United Nations. (n.d.). Water. [Online] United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/water/ (Accessed on 04 October, 2020)

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Parva Chhantyal

Written by

Parva Chhantyal

After graduating from The University of Manchester with a Master's degree in Chemical Engineering with Energy and Environment in 2013, Parva carried out a PhD in Nanotechnology at the Leibniz University Hannover in Germany. Her work experience and PhD specialized in understanding the optical properties of Nano-materials. Since completing her PhD in 2017, she is working at Steinbeis R-Tech as a Project Manager.

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