Manchester student wins graphene prize

Sebastian Leaper, a doctoral student at Manchester University, has won the 2016 Eli and Britt Harari Graphene Enterprise Award for a water desalination membrane he developed.

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(Credit: Manchester University)

The 23 year old is currently undertaking his PhD at Manchester’s Graphene NOWNANO Centre for Doctoral Training. The £50,000 award that accompanies the prize will help fund a new grapheme project that will aim to significantly reduce the energy required to desalinate water, something that’s vital for addressing water crises around the world.

“When you live in Manchester, it’s easy to forget that there’s a global water shortage going on,” said Sebastian. “It’s crazy to think that in the 21st century, there are still people who have to walk miles everyday for such a basic commodity. Graphene has promise to unlock the door to low cost, sustainable desalination technology that can end the global water crisis.”

Graphene membranes can help improve the desalination process, and tweaking the material’s properties can allow water to permeate through it with virtually no resistance. This results in less energy being needed to process the water, and makes the membranes less susceptible to clogging. It also means that untreated water can be used, meaning the membrane requires less maintenance.

“Once again we are seeing breakthrough ideas for the commercialisation of graphene coming from our brightest young minds here in Manchester, enabled by the generosity of the Harari Award,” said lead judge Professor Luke Georghiou, vice president for Research and Innovation at Manchester.

“It is particularly satisfying to see the potential combination of social good and business opportunity that this year’s winner brings us.”