The use of graphene is becoming more popular and more versatile. LifeSaver, the UK-based manufacturer of portable and reusable water filters, has signed an exclusive contract with the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at the University of Manchester. Over 18 months, they will be using graphene to develop a proprietary and patented filter that can eliminate more contaminants than the company's existing ultra-filters.

Over 80 companies have already partnered with the University of Manchester to work on graphene applications. Industrial partners work alongside its academics and over 300 people working on graphene and other two-dimensional materials. One of them is Inov-8, the subsidiary of Descente that is using graphene on its latest collections of trail running and hiking shoes.

Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a sheet of latticed hexagons. Because the sheet is only one atom thick, graphene is, practically speaking, two-dimensional. It is also flexible and remarkably durable. LifeSaver hopes the material will reduce the size of the sieve in its hollow-fiber filtration membrane from 15 nanometers (enough to filter out organic materials such as bacteria, microbial cysts and viruses) to 1-3 nanometers (enough to filter out heavy metals, pesticides, certain chemicals and perhaps radioactive particles).

LifeSaver was founded by Michael Pritchard as a practical humanitarian response to the tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A few years later, Pritchard's filtering water bottles drew interest from the British army. Today the company serves three markets: humanitarian relief, the military and retail. The NGI is the U.K.'s national center for research into graphene and two-dimensional materials.