In 1997, Los Alamos National Laboratory announced a polymer-based material that cleans up water. As its name suggests, a nanosponge works on a molecular level. It is not really a sponge; it was so-named because it "soaks up" organic contaminants from water.
That was 12 years ago.
A few weeks ago nanosponges made it into the news as a possible solution for cleaning up South Africa's water. The country currently uses conventional purification treatments for coolant water from power plant turbines. But they aren't enough. South Africa water is also polluted from mining activities, sewage, and phosphorous fertilizer runoff.
The nanosponge—still expensive and unproven as a long term solution—is reusable and responds to molecular charges instead of just filtering. Because they can be created to target specific polltant, they are described as "smart" sponges.
But is this the perfect solution for water purification? Read Nanosponges: South Africa's high hopes for clean water and decide for yourself.