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Chemistry at the nexus of water and energy

Our ability to harness reactions that absorb or release energy is often contingent on water as a mediator. We can appreciate this simply by considering the steam that drives our electricity-generating turbines, the rivers that flow through our hydroelectric plants, and the freshwater–saltwater interface from which we can harvest blue energy. Whether we split water (as plants do), make it (as a product of combustion) or just drink it, this compound is inexorably tied to energy. Chemistry is at the heart of these topics and this collection brings together content from across Nature Research that focuses on the chemistry of energy production and water treatment.

Water treatment processes mostly rely on the use of membranes and filters, which have high pumping costs and require periodic replacement. Here, the authors describe an efficient membraneless method that induces directed motion of suspended colloidal particles by exposing the suspension to CO2.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Nanoparticles can act as absorbent materials for environmental clean-up due to their high surface-to-volume ratio, but subsequent removal can be difficult. Here, the authors report nanoparticles that aggregate upon UV radiation, allowing them to absorb pollutants from water and subsequently be removed in the aggregated state.

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Carbon nanotubes have been proposed for many forms of water treatment, although ultrafiltration nanotube-based membranes with very high flow rates remain rare. Here, the authors fabricate a membrane delivering water permeability close to 30,000 litres per square meter per hour at 1 bar.

Article | | Nature Communications