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University of Basel

A Vision of Clean Drinking Water

At the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI), physicists, biologists, chemists and engineers interact closely together. One of their long-term goals is to develop completely new methods of producing clean drinking water.

Wolfgang P. Meier
Wolfgang P. Meier studies artificial membranes that could produce clean drinking water in just seconds. © Universität Basel

The concept behind this product is found in aquaporins – extraordinary, pipe-shaped proteins that purify water in the kidneys. Aquaporins only let water molecules pass through them and therefore make the perfect water filters. The team’s goal is to develop artificial membranes into which aquaporins can be integrated. Such membranes could theoretically produce clean drinking water within just a few seconds.

The team, led by Wolfgang Meier, professor of physical chemistry, has succeeded in isolating aquaporins and putting them into a sealed membrane. They have been able to prove that salts or bacteria dissolved in water cannot pass through the membrane. Now the team is working on making this technology suitable for everyday use.

“This work is highly interdisciplinary,” explains Wolfgang Meier. “We need expertise in the fields of polymer chemistry, surface science, structural biology and engineering. Much of this expertise can already be found right here in the Basel research hub.”

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