Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Water of Life - Bacteria, Nanofilters and Filtration

The importance of clean water to quality of life cannot be overestimated, and as in almost every other area of human endeavor the technology used to filter water is undergoing a continuous process of improvement. Current state of the art continuous water purification is accomplished via reverse osmosis, activated carbon filtration, ultraviolet light, and ceramic and membrane filters. The new generations of nanopore filters which can filter particles as small as one nanometer are an essential part of 'ultrafiltration'. The problem with these filters (and membrane filters in general) is that they become clogged fairly quickly during use and must be replaced or cleaned with some frequency. One way researchers are currently addressing this problem is by inoculating the nanofilters with a variety of bacterial colonies which digest the various types of filtered contaminants, thereby cleaning the filters. It is especially interesting that this process is a closed cycle, meaning that the bacterial colonies are self sustaining and cannot escape through the nanoscale pores on the filters, and that the filters no longer have to be replaced or cleaned.

Hybrid technologies that take advantage of cutting edge nanotechnologies and biotech to accomplish tasks currently beyond the reach of either alone. Rest assured that you will be seeing more of these hybrid technologies in the future.