Nanotechnology Project


Plenty of Clean Water at the NanoFrontier

Podcast and newsletter explore how nanotech can purify water and reduce rich, poor gap

WASHINGTON, DC—The single most important application of nanotechnology could be solving the global shortage of clean water—benefiting people in both industrialized and developing countries significantly.

A new podcast explores how Eric Hoek and his engineering research team at the University of California at Los Angeles, developed a new membrane using nanoparticles that promises to dramatically reduce the cost and energy needed to desalinate seawater and clean wastewater. In the near term, these membranes could work in municipal desalination plants in water-thirsty areas, such as those planned for the California coastline. In the future, this groundbreaking technology can be adapted to meet the clean water needs of poor countries and people who rely on low cost, decentralized water treatment systems.

Listen to Dr. Hoek describe his research in the latest episode of an exciting new series of podcasts, Trips to the NanoFrontier. Produced by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, these podcasts are available online at, or directly from Apple’s iTunes music store. The podcasts and a recent publication, NanoFrontiers: Visions for the Future of Nanotechnology, are written by freelance science writer Karen F. Schmidt.

A new companion new issue of the NanoFrontiers newsletter, Developing Story: Nanotechnology and Low-Income Nations is also available. The newsletter provides a roundup of international nanotechnology research and development news, which now involves scientists from over 100 countries.

The newsletter explores the question of whether developing nations will fully share in the anticipated benefits of nanotechnology—predicted to be the driving force for the next industrial revolution. The newsletter briefly describes nanotechnology initiatives ongoing in Brazil, South Africa, and several other nations. It highlights research on the two major challenges confronting the developing world: improving access to health care and ensuring clean drinking water for the one in six people who lack access to reliable supplies. Examples include nanotechnology-related efforts aimed at therapeutic and preventive treatments for HIV/AIDS; “fog harvesting” in Thailand, China, and Nepal; and improved desalination technology to turn sea water into drinking water at dramatically lower costs.

Launched in April, the newsletter reports on achievements toward realizing the immense potential of nanotechnology. It continues the discussion begun at the February 2006 NanoFrontiers forecasting workshop, co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.