Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Clean water project hit by funding drought

12.09.2006
British engineers have developed a simple water filter which could save thousands of lives in developing countries.

Unlike the commercial water filters currently supplied by some charities, the unit designed by Dr Paul Sallis and colleagues at Newcastle University can easily be made by local craftsmen and women, using local materials.

The 'low tech' manufacturing process overcomes the problems of having to persuade and educate low-income families to use water filters and of having to order costly spare parts when a filter breaks down.

But after successful trials, the project has not been widely implemented because it does not qualify for support from the development agencies, falling into a 'no man's land' between research and commercial products.

Charities estimate that more than a billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. In some parts of Africa, water-borne diseases such as cholera, dysentery and viral diarrhoea claim the lives of one in four children.

The United Nations has deemed such infant mortality rates as unacceptable. One of its eight Millennium Development Goals is to 'reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under five'. This goal is one of the keynote topics at the 2006 World Water Congress in Beijing, today, Monday 11 September.

The Newcastle project began after a group of postgraduate civil engineering students visited Ghana, Kenya and Malaysia and recognised the huge benefits that sustainable water filtration could have on health. One of the students, Matt Simpson, decided to devote his doctoral research project to this topic.
Working in the laboratories at Newcastle University, he tested many techniques and eventually discovered that a mixture of clay and crop residues - such as rice husks or bran - created the ideal ceramic filter, when fired at 700 to 1,000C.

At these temperatures the crop residue decomposes, releasing carbon dioxide gas which forms microscopic pores in the ceramic material exactly the right size to trap bacteria and viruses but allow water to pass through.

Tests showed that the filter trapped 99.99 per cent of pathogens - equal to the efficiency of commercial filters which rely upon the addition of biocides, such as compounds of silver, to the clay before firing. This makes them more expensive and requires more advanced technology in the manufacturing process.

Low-income families in developing countries cannot afford to buy commercial water filters. Some charities distribute them free of charge but uptake is low and they tend to be discarded when new parts are needed.

The Newcastle filter, however, can be made by local potters using local materials - and even the most primitive open-air 'bonfire kiln', in which the pottery is fired in a rack surrounded by burning wood, can reach sufficiently high temperatures.

Mr Simpson has since spent a six months placement at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh, training village potters to make the filters. The project proved how easily the technology could be adopted. The placement was funded by a £20,000 grant from HSBC Holdings PLC, which supports environmental research at Newcastle University as part of its commitment to 'green' technologies and sustainable development.

Newcastle University is one of the founding members of the HSBC-funded Partnership in Environmental Innovation (PEI), which has also seen the establishment of the first Chair of Environmental Technologies and Geothermal Energy at Newcastle, Professor Paul Younger.

Dr Sallis, a lecturer in the university's School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences and a leading expert in water treatment technologies, said: 'Pottery manufacture is one of the world's oldest professions and most places have the basic materials and skills required to manufacture simple ceramics. It takes only two hours to teach a potter to make one of our filters from the resources already available in their village.'

Having proven the theory, the next step would be to launch a training and education programme, so that village potters start making the filters and local people recognise the benefits of using them. However, the resources necessary to launch such a programme have so far proved impossible to obtain.

Dr Sallis said development agencies are swamped with applications for support and tend to select projects with economic development potential, for example a product which local craftspeople can make and sell for a profit.

'It is very difficult for us to demonstrate that local people could make a profit from our water filters,' he said. 'To be sustainable, we need to spread knowledge and educate people. This would involve local potters showing each other how to make the filters, which is contrary to the commercial principle of keeping your methods secret from your competitors.'

In May 2006, the project reached the last 125 out of 2,500 applications for a grant award from the World Bank but in the end just failed to get funding .
Dr Sallis said: 'Funds are available for research and for the distribution of finished products but unfortunately we fall in a no-man's land between the two.'

'Ceramic water filters offer great potential for reducing the pathogen intake by people with low quality drinking water, and are therefore one of the most promising options to address United Nations Millennium Development Goal targets for reducing infant mortality.'

Dr Paul Sallis | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ncl.ac.uk

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht GLUT5 fluorescent probe fingerprints cancer cells
20.04.2018 | Michigan Technological University

nachricht Scientists re-create brain neurons to study obesity and personalize treatment
20.04.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tiny microenvironments in the ocean hold clues to global nitrogen cycle

23.04.2018 | Earth Sciences

Joining metals without welding

23.04.2018 | Trade Fair News

Researchers illuminate the path to a new era of microelectronics

23.04.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>