Technology alert: MOF water purification system

Monash University researchers have developed a revolutionary new water treatment technology that has the potential to provide cheap, sustainable, drinking water to millions of people around the world.

The world-first study, recently published in the Nature Sustainability journal, uses metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and natural sunlight to convert brackish water and seawater into clean drinking water.

The study shows MOFs could transform the water treatment industry – which currently uses technologies that consume a significant amount of power and chemicals.

MOFs are a new group of materials made by combining metals and plastics (polymers) at the molecular level. By experimenting with different metal/polymer combinations, researchers can invent new materials with interesting and highly useful properties. These materials have applications in many engineering fields – such as hydrogen gas storage, carbon capturing and semi-conductor design.

The team at Monash University, led by Professor Huanting Wang, have created an MOF with the ability to remove contaminants from water when placed in a dark environment. The MOF then discharges those contaminants when placed in sunlight.

A diagram of the new process is shown below:

New MOF water treatment technology uses natural sunlight instead of power or chemicals.

As water passes through the MOF material, dissolved contaminants are attached to charged sites via a process called adsorption, safely removing them from the water.