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According to a recent report from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, nanotechnology may provide for a cheaper and more efficient desalination method. As explained by the lab: The nanotubes (special molecules made of carbon atoms in a unique arrangement) are hollow and each is more than 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. Billions of these tubes act as the pores in the membrane. The nanotubes allow liquids and gases to rapidly flow through, while the tiny pore size can block larger molecules.

According to researchers at the government-funded lab, membranes that have carbon nanotubes as pores could be used in desalination and demineralization, which could reduce the energy costs of these processes by up to 75 percent compared with conventional membranes used in reverse osmosis.

&quotThe gas and water flows that we measured are 100 to 10,000 times faster than what classical models predict,&quot said Olgica Bakajin, the scientist who led the research. &quotThis is like having a garden hose that can deliver as much water in the same amount of time as a fire hose that is 10 times larger.&quot

The research is the cover story in the May 19 edition of the journal Science. For more information, visit www.llnl.gov or www.sciencemag.org.