Creativity Prize - 8th Award


Dr. Andre Geim and Dr. Rahul Nair (National Graphene Institute, University of Manchester, UK).

Dr. Geim and Dr. Nair have developed membranes based on graphene oxide laminates which act as atomic-scale sieves allowing water to pass through while blocking salts and other molecules, a mechanism completely different from that of polymer-based membranes. This promises to enable energy-efficient and high-volume water filtration. The team achieved this through a simple and scalable self-assembly process that provides stable, angstrom-scale slits at the precise size needed for desalination.

Winner Profiles

Dr. Andre Geim

Dr. Geim is Regius Professor of Physics and the Director of the Centre for Mesoscience & Nanotechnology at the University of Manchester. He is also a Royal Society Research Professor and Nobel laureate.


• 1987 - PhD, Institute of Solid State Physics, Chernogolovka, Russia
• 1982 - MSc (with honours), Moscow Physical-Technical Institute (“FizTeh”)

Selected Awards:

2013 - Copley Medal for “initiating research on two‐dimensional atomic crystals and their artificial heterostructures”
2011 - Niels Bohr Medal for “outstanding contributions to the development of physics”
2010 - Nobel Prize for “groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene” (shared with Kostya Novoselov)
2010 - Hughes Medal for “discovery of graphene and elucidation of its remarkable properties”
2010 - John Carty Award from the US National Academy for “realization and investigation of graphene”
2009 - Körber Prize for having “developed the first two-dimensional crystals made of carbon atoms”
2008 - EuroPhysics Prize “for discovering and isolating a single free-standing atomic layer of carbon (graphene) and elucidating its remarkable electronic properties” (shared with Kostya Novoselov)
2007 - Mott Prize “for the discovery of a new class of materials – free-standing two-dimensional crystals – particularly graphene”
2000 - IgNobel Prize for “levitating frogs” (shared with Michael Berry)



Dr. Rahul Nair

Dr. Nair is Professor of Materials Physics, National Graphene Institute and School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science at the University of Manchester.


• 2010 - PhD in Condensed Matter Physics, University of Manchester
• 2005 - MSc in Physics, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, India

Selected Awards:

2016 - Highly Cited Researcher, Thomson Reuters
2015 - The Moseley medal and prize, Institute of Physics (IOP)
2014 - IUPAP young scientist prize, The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics

Acceptance Speech

unhq300x300HRH…., esteemed members of prize council, dear audience dear colleagues, I am greatly humbled and honoured to accept this prestigious prize.

First I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water prize council for selecting me for this honour.

Access to clean drinking water is a fundamental human right. Even though we are scientifically and technologically advanced, nearly 3 in 10 people worldwide, or 2.1 billion, lack access to safe drinking water. The visionary idea from Saudi Government and HRH Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz to promote cutting-edge research related to water to solve one of the greatest challenge in the humanity has already been appreciated by the global scientific community. This is apparent from the increasing reputation and tight competition of this prize.

Our approach for solving this global challenge was to design and fabricate novel energy efficient graphene-based membrane for water filtration. I was not alone in this task. My colleague, mentor and the co-recipient of this prize, Prof. Andre Geim’s support was immense. Without that, I could not reach here. He was supposed to be here with me to receive this prize, but unfortunately, he couldn’t make it due to an important meeting with the European Commission. He conveyed his sincere apology for his absence. I also would like to use this occasion to appreciate the support from my colleagues, and students. I am also grateful to my parents and my wife for their continued support.

We initiated the graphene membrane research in 2008 due to scientific curiosity. Accidentally we found that membranes made from graphene oxide (GO), a chemical derivative of graphene, are air and liquid leak tight, except for water. Water vapor was found to permeate without any hindrance, as quickly as if GO membranes were not there at all. This work demonstrated the potential of GO membranes for water-related technologies and laid a foundation for a new research field of exploiting graphene oxide for filtration and separation applications.

We have developed this research further by demonstrating the use of graphene-based membranes as atomic scale sieve for water filtration. This is a significant step forward, although more efforts are of course required to deliver this new technology into the industrial realm.

We are continuing this effort, and so far several industries and organizations are working with us to jointly develop and scale-up of this technology to produce cheaper and safer drinking water. New technologies for desalinating sea water cheaply will be helpful, but we realized that small-scale techniques such as efficient portable water filter need to be developed sooner for the most vulnerable in our community. We are on this mission and hope we will get continued support from Saudi officials and the rest of the world.

Thank you very much.

Winning Work

[1] Joshi RK, Carbone P, Wang FC, Kravets VG, Su Y, Grigorieva IV, Wu HA, Geim AK, Nair RR. Precise and ultrafast molecular sieving through graphene oxide membranes. Science. 2014 Feb 14; 343: 752-4.

[2] Jijo Abraham, Kalangi S. Vasu, Christopher D. Williams, Kalon Gopinadhan, Yang Su, Christie T. Cherian, James Dix, Eric Prestat, Sarah J. Haigh, Irina V. Grigorieva, Paola Carbone, Andre K. Geim and Rahul R. Nair. Tunable sieving of ions using graphene oxide membranes. Nature Nanotechnology 12, 546-550 (2017).

[3] Q. Yang, Y. Su, C. Chi, C. T. Cherian, K. Huang, V. G. Kravets, F. C. Wang, J. C. Zhang, A. Pratt, A. N. Grigorenko, F. Guinea, A. K. Geim and R. R. Nair. Ultrathin graphene-based membrane with precise molecular sieving and ultrafast solvent permeation. Nature Materials, Vol 16, December 2017, 1198-1203.

[4] A. Esfandiar, B. Radha, F. C. Wang, Q. Yang, S. Hu, S. Garaj, R. R. Nair, A. K. Geim, and K. Gopinadhan. Size effect in ion transport through angstrom-scale slits. Science. 2017 Oct 27; 358: 511–513.

[5] Rahul Raveendran Nair, Rakesh K. Joshi, and Andre Geim. Water Purification. US Patent no. US 2016/0280563 A1, 29 Sept 2016.

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