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UNSW and RMIT researchers have discovered a revolutionary and cheap way to make filters that can turn water contaminated with heavy metals into safe drinking water in a matter of minutes.

Recent UNSW SHARP hire Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh and his former colleagues at RMIT showed that nano-filters made of aluminium oxide could be cheaply produced using virtually no energy from a fixed amount of liquid metal gallium.

In a paper published in Advanced Functional Materials, lead author Dr Ali Zavabeti (RMIT) and Professor Kalantar-zadeh explained that when a chunk of aluminium is added to the core of liquid gallium at room temperature, layers of aluminium oxide are quickly produced at the surface of the gallium.

The authors discovered that these aluminium oxide nano-sheets were highly porous and went on to prove they were suitable for filtering both heavy metal ions and oil contamination at unprecedented, ultra-fast rates.

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