Affordable Nanotech Filter Removes Hazardous Microbes and Chemicals from Drinking Water

Millions of people die each year because of drinking water contaminated by hazardous bacteria and viruses. The sad fact is that about a tenth of the world's population (approximately 780 million people) has no access to clean drinking water. But scientists believe that a recently invented affordable device that effectively removes most contaminants from water may help solve this problem.

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Thalappil Pradeep together with his co-workers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras created a $16 nanoparticle water filtration system that will make potable water available for even the poorest communities in India and people from other countries that confront with the same problem. Despite the fact that inexpensive filtration systems have been designed before, this unique device combines microbe-killing properties with the ability to clear water from many chemical contaminants, including lead and arsenic. This filters for removing microbes and chemicals are separate components but the device can be customized to clear water from microbes, chemicals or both, depending on the consumer's needs.

The microbe filter features silver nanoparticles embedded in a cage made of aluminum and chitosan that blocks macroscale water contaminants and at the same time protects the nanoparticles from sediments, preventing the release of microbe-zapping ions.

The chemical filter includes nanoparticles that release iron- and arsenic-trapping ions. But the developer of the system states that the "cage" technique can be used with other nanoparticles to target mercury as well, for example.

The greatest advantage of this invention is that production process which, in fact, is a room-temperature green synthesis, requires no electricity and can be carried out in any part of the world.

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The new filtering system has already experienced small-scale field trials and proved to be effective. Pradeep has partnered with a Madras-based venture that will make and assemble the filters. He is going to distribute 2,000 supersize versions of the filtration system that would be able to provide water for about 600,000 people in the state of West Bengal. Pradeep's team will continue testing the device to find out how effective this nanotechnology is at clearing contaminants, arsenic in particular, which is found in groundwater there in large amounts.

Clean drinking water is an indispensible part of healthy living and overall well-being of a society. And scientists hope that these brand new technologies will benefit the quality of life in India and other countries plagued by diseases caused by poor drinking water.