Freshwater from seawater? The Impact of Nanofibers on the Global Environment

In this article, we will consider the properties and products of nanofibers and their benefits from a global environmental perspective.

The reasons why nanofibers are Eco-friendly

In the context of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) being set globally, how well do nanofibers fit in with the SDGs?

  1. Nanofibers can be created from waste
  2. Nanofibers can contribute to making deserts oases and greening the earth
  3. Working with nanofibers is possible to produce “water” and “electricity” from seawater

These are the main three points.

We will explain them one by one.

①Nanofibers can be produced from waste.

Nanofibers come in a variety of types. Polymeric nanofibers,” such as polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate, “bionanofibers,” such as cellulose, tendon, and DNA, “carbon nanofibers,” such as carbon nanotubes, and “nanowires” made of metals, are all different in terms of features and properties.

Polypropylene is the raw material for polymer nanofibers, and it is attracting a lot of attention among these materials. Actually, polypropylene is used in a large variety of products in our daily lives.

For example, plastic bags. Recently, In Japan, there are efforts to reduce consumption of plastic bags by charging for them, but even so, we inevitably still consume them in our daily lives. Polypropylene is also used for wrapping strings and for buckets.

When these are discarded, and thus becomes “waste plastics”, they can be reused as resources and reborn as “polymer nanofibers”.

A new ray of light for the disposal of waste plastic, which had been considered a global challenge.

The Chinese government suddenly banned the import of recyclable and plastic waste that it had previously accepted from all over the world starting at the end of 2017! Even in Japan, which used to send more than 70% of its exported PET bottle waste to China, the number of companies exporting to third countries or struggling to dispose of the waste domestically has skyrocketed. The world has been forced to consider new export destinations for waste plastics, which has resulted in increased exports to Southeast Asia and Taiwan since 2018, but since July of the same year, both countries and regions have tightened their import standards for waste plastics, and it will be difficult to continue to export at the same level in the future.

We propose to add new value to waste plastic, which had lost its place in the world, by “turning waste plastic into nanofibers,” making it possible to dispose of it. Plastic waste, which had been piled up in many places around the world and had no place to go, now has a new role to play.

②Nanofibers can contribute to turning deserts into oases and to greening the earth.

Nanofibers made from waste further enrich the environment of the earth.

Turning the desert into an oasis

What would be the effect of burying extremely water-repellent nanofiber sheets in a vast desert? Once it rains there, all the rainwater will not be absorbed by the desert soil and will accumulate, creating a large puddle. By doing this on a large scale, it is thought that “artificial oases” can be created, reducing water shortages in desert areas.

Water storage methods currently in practice in Los Angeles

Greening of the Earth

With the same principle applied to artificial oases, sand and greenery can be installed on top of nanofiber sheets to green the desert at a low cost and without the use of heavy machinery.

The accumulation of moisture will also help to prevent wind damage (sandstorms), providing a great help to people living in desert areas.

③It is possible to produce “water” and “electricity” from seawater by operating with nanofibers.

In island nations and remote islands where freshwater is difficult to obtain, a stable water supply is an extremely important issue. In this context, it is believed that stable water supply can be secured by utilizing the “super specific surface area effect,” a characteristic of nanofibers, to evaporate seawater and extract fresh water.

In addition, it is theoretically possible to simultaneously produce “fresh water” and “electricity” from seawater by using the highly concentrated brine obtained in the process to osmotically generate power.


What do you think? In this article, we introduced the “Impact of Nanofibers on the Global Environment” from an energy perspective. Please check out our other articles as well, as we have updated a variety of other nanofiber information in an easy-to-understand style!