Researchers at Rice have created an ultra-porous ceramic filter with pores about 10-50 nanometers in size that may prove useful to industries ranging from hazardous waste treatment to milk sterilization. The material, an environmentally benign aluminum ceramic developed by Rice chemist Andrew Barron, is produced using only water as a solvent, and is extremely inexpensive compared to other ceramics. Standard processes for creating ceramic filters are difficult to control, use toxic solvents and it is extremely difficult to produce small pore sizes. Pore size of existing filters ranges from .1-1 micrometer. Says Rice environmental engineer Mark Wiesner, "This material is well suited to making membranes with very narrow pore size distributions and, with relatively little effort, pores that are quite small compared with conventional methods." Barron and Wiesner will work to improve their system to reduce the film thickness and to decrease the size of the pores to 1-2 nm, which would allow them to filter viruses. They are currently studying properties of the material, including permeability and surface chemistry and have shown that permeabilities are similar to those of currently marketed membranes. The filters may have applications in the biomedical separations and chemical recovery industries as well.