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 Biofilm discovery suggests new way to prevent dangerous infections
23.05.2017 | University of Texas at Austin

nachricht Another reason to exercise: Burning bone fat -- a key to better bone health
19.05.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

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: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>