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[Sea Water Desalination using Graphene] [ALTERNATIVE DOCUMENTATION] Graphene Desalination




Desired outcomes of this project

Design and build a system that can use graphene or graphene oxide to desalinate sea water and convert it into potable drinking water.


Graphene, often referred to as wonder material, is a 1-atom thick carbon membrane that is the basic building block for graphite. It is heavily researched and used in various applications including batteries, solar cells, super capacitors, DNA sequencing, display and touch screens, and water filtration among others. Graphene is about 100 times stronger than steel and is excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Graphene also has interesting light absorption abilities - making it a key component in solar cells.

This wonder material has unlimited potential when integrated with other elements and can play an important role in almost any industry. 

Producing a graphene membrane involves high technology manufacturing processes and is expensive. An alternate to graphene is graphene oxide (GO) which is relatively easier to manufacture and is abundant in nature. Graphene oxide is also a 1-atom think layered material that can be produced by oxidation of graphite. Graphene oxide, the oxidized formed when graphene is laced with oxygen groups (O and OH). Unlike graphene, is a poor conductor of electricity,  but can be used for other applications like water filtration. Graphene oxide is available in powdered form and can be used as coating for surfaces or membranes.

Graphene or graphene oxide membranes can be used to desalinate sea water and make it safe for drinking.

Why this is important

Water covers 70% of our planet. However, only about 3% is fresh water - that we use to drink, irrigate and clean. Of this 3%, some of this is locked away in frozen glaciers, unavailable for our use - effectively reducing potable and drinking water to less than 2%. 

About 1 billion people around the world lack access to potable water. About 2.5 billion people are faced with water scarcity 3 months in a year.  Not having potable water is a problem for about 2.5 billion people because of inadequate sanitation provision — exposing them to deadly diseases like as cholera, typhoid, and other water-borne illnesses. Two million people, mostly children, die each year from diarrheal diseases alone. 

1 in 9 people have no access to safe drinking water. 1 in 3 have no access to a toilet.

By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will face severe water shortages. 

This project will drive the need to solve the problem of desalinating sea water and making it usable for drinking, irrigation, sanitation and other needs.

What this Project needs to move forward

We need these skills to move this project forward:

  • Hands on Builder - someone that can build this project, do side by side comparisons on a converted and standard batteries, take measurements, run load tests, and record results.
  • Chemistry Majors - To study and recommend graphene and graphene oxide usages
  • Architects/Structural Engineers - To design and build a complete system that can pump sea water into the system, chambers for graphene filtration and save clean water to a storage tank,


Highlights of working on this project

  • Collaborate with talented people from different domains and areas of study and expertise
  • Build a strong team with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds
  • Learn project management, project reporting, delivery cycles
  • Work in a highly energized environment that focuses on high quality product development
  • Discover, learn, innovate and invent new ways for preserving and growing marine life
  • Have fun in a super charged team of professionals students, collaborators, sponsors.

For Contributors

  • Remuneration - This is a sponsored project. You will get paid for your contributions. Find out more from your project manager/project coordinator. [OR]
  • Remuneration - This is not a sponsored project. You will get credits, honorable mentions and a Certificate of Contribution from Ocean Builders.
  • Learning - This project offers you opportunities to learn about this concept/topic/technology. You will get to collaborate and work with industry experts and professionals who will share their experiences and guide you along with their best practices.
  • Culture - Work with people from different backgrounds, cultures, nationalities and get exposure to working on cross-functional and virtual teams.
  • Get Your Hands Dirty - Roll up your sleeves and get practical on this project. Experience the joy of designing or building a machine/system/device that will be used by millions of people worldwide. If you are not co-located, video conference your team and collaborate.
  • Build and Grow your Professional Network - Collaborate on this project and make friends - grow your professional network.

For Sponsors

  • Top Talent - Get talented people and see this project take shape and build something awesome.
  • Own Use - Use this system and technology for your home/boat/ship/company/organization.
  • Branding - Brand it with your organization identity.
  • Monetize - Invest in his project and take it to market with your brand identity.

For Users

  • Get involved in the design phase and share your thoughts on how you would use this product or technology in your daily lives.
  • Give feedback at regular intervals and development stages to help this team to design a build a user-friendly system or technology.
  • Work with people from different countries, cultures, backgrounds and experiences. It's fun!


  • Get Recognition - Participate as an academician/student and contribute to research papers, college projects and participate in local, state, national and international academic or technical conferences and present papers. 

All of the above

Ocean Builders invites you to be a part of this project. You can be a sponsor, a contributor, a user, an academician AND you can be all of the above. 


The following research and documentation is meant to get this project started. Please consider this a work in progress. Significant work is needed to move this project forward.

  • Graphene membrane or graphene oxide powder
  • Filtration chambers
  • Sea water
  • Grey water
Working Principle

Graphene is a 1-atom thick membrane of carbon atoms arranged in a hexadecimal lattice. The distance between 2 sides of the graphene mesh is 0.284 nanometers. 

The size of a water molecule is 0.275 nanometers - smaller than the mesh in the graphene membrane.

The size of a sodium chloride molecule is 0.564 nanometers - much bigger than the gap in the graphene mesh.

When sea water or grey water is passed through the graphene membrane, only water molecules pass easily through the mesh. Molecules and bacteria that are much bigger than the gap in the mesh cannot pass through the membrane and are filtered out.

Another way is to stack up layers of graphene on top of each other and let water molecules pass through by capillary action.


Figure 2 - Graphene layers stacked up to allow water molecules.

Using Graphene Oxide

Layers of graphene oxide are stacked with on top of each other with enough space to allow only water molecules to pass through. Since graphene oxide can be used as coating. Since graphene oxide is not as strong as graphene, a stronger membrane can be used to support the graphene membrane.


Figure 3 - Graphene oxide layers stacked up to allow water molecules.

Documenting Results and Recommendations

Documenting Results 

The outcomes of this project must give a fully functional device that can desalinate sea water to make it drinkable and potable. 

Publishing Recommendations

A detailed report of the recommendation must accompany the results. The recommendation must specify the following:

  • Salinity of the drinking water in each method.
  • Quantity of drinking water available for every liter of sea water.
  • Time taken to accumulate 1 liter of water by using each method.

Further research

This project is being developed as an open-source project with the following licensing: