UI Student Wins Gold Medal for Innovation in Desalination Technology to Overcome Water Crisis in Jakarta

Five students from the 2019 batch of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Indonesia (DSTL FTUI) offer a graphene-based filtration membrane innovation in the desalination method. Elgrytha Victoria Tybeyuliana, Fathiya Alisa Zahrandika, Fikri Irfan Mahendra, Juan Fidel Ferdani, and Nada Laili Nurfadhilah, together with the FTUI Environmental Engineering lecturer, Dr. Nyoman Suwartha M.T., M. Agr., conducted a study on the effectiveness of graphene membrane as an innovation to be implemented in desalination technology which is expected to be useful for overcoming the water crisis in Jakarta. The innovations brought to the international scientific competition, which was participated by 356 teams from various countries, led them to win the Gold Medal in the 2022 World Science, Environment, and Engineering Competition (WSEEC).

The results of the research are stated in a scientific paper entitled “GO-FILTER: Sea Water Desalination Based on Graphene Oxide as a Water Treatment Innovation in Jakarta”. “Currently, increasing water pollution in Jakarta is starting to trigger a water crisis. In some areas, groundwater is no longer an alternative source of water due to land subsidence and seawater intrusion in Jakarta. The utilization of seawater as a water source in Jakarta with the desalination method emerged as an alternative solution. However, this method requires a lot of money and the reverse osmosis process and the multilevel distillation method lead to an increase in greenhouse gases,” said Dr. Nyoman Suwartha, the Associate Dean for Academic of FTUI.

The innovation of graphene-based filtration membranes — thin nanomaterial membranes — as a desalination membrane has several advantages over other existing similar technologies. “The graphene membrane can separate the white crystalline compound NaCl from seawater with significant water flux. Graphene membranes can save as much as 15% energy from seawater treatment and 50% from brackish water treatment. With high efficiency, graphene membranes can treat seawater for raw water sources with higher permeability and more economical prices,” said Juan, team leader.

The research was conducted in Kamal Muara Village as the object of study because the area has a very concerning issue of water availability. The majority of the population of Kamal Muara work as fishermen, although some have begun to shift to other sectors as a result of the decline in income in the fisheries sector.

In their research, the FTUI team presented an overview of the use of this innovation from social, environmental, and financial aspects. “From the research, we can conclude that the application of graphene oxide-based desalination innovation can produce clean water that meets the capacity needs of the local community. The clean water produced is 50,000 m3/day with a production price of Rp.1,000.00/m3. This price is cheaper than when people buy water from water traders,” said Nada explaining the innovative advantages of her team.

“Water treatment using graphene membrane can solve the problem of the water crisis and utilize seawater as a natural water source. If this innovation is implemented with careful planning, besides being more environmentally friendly, it can also improve the economic welfare of the local community and create job opportunities for the community, “said the Dean of FTUI, Prof. Dr. Heri Hermansyah, ST., M.Eng., IPU.

This international scientific writing competition is organized by the Indonesian Young Scientists Association (IYSA), an organization specifically engaged in research and scientific work, to play a role in facilitating students to be able to compete in the industrial world 4.0. The competition was held on June 20-July 21, 2022, and was participated by 356 teams from various countries in the world, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, Mexico, Malaysia, and Thailand.


Public Communication Bureau
Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Indonesia