University to develop 3D printed water treatment for contaminated drinking water

water treatment
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Researches at University of Bath, UK, hope to develop a 3D printed household water treatment (HWT) system for people who don’t have access to a centralized water supply in developing countries. The water supply system would cost $6.50 USD and be able to produce up to 35 liters of clean drinking water a day.

650 million people still without sustainable access to drinking water

At present, there are still 650 million people across the world without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Moreover, existing methods for purifying the vital liquid have numerous disadvantages; therefore, this project is working on one of the UN Sustainable goals ‘to ensure access to water and sanitation for all’. The use of sunlight could actually sidestep many of the problems associated with conventional methods.

Sunlight could be key to the success of the low-cost household water treatment (HWT) system

The research team is currently using 3D printing to make rapid prototypes of the HWT system and testing them with an indoor solar light that replicates pure sunlight. These prototypes are based on a “SODIS Bottle”, which comes from SOlar DISinfection. It is basically a plastic bottle that deactivates microbes through a combination of heat and UV light from the sun.

However, like all purification methods, it has some limitations. Researchers still don’t know how much it takes the SODIS bottle to decontaminate water since it depends on a number of factors. In addition, it represents a short-term solution due to its limited durability.

water treatment

Dr Emma Emanuelsson, University of Bath, holding a 3D printed prototype

3D printed water treatment to be portable, sustainable and efficient

The new device will purportedly have no breakable parts, neither require power source. Plus, it will be more durable than other devices; most noteworthy, the device can make lots of clean water!

The Bath team thinks its HWT system will be able to produce 35 liters of clean drinking water a day—shy of the 50 liters per person per day recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for drinking, showering, etc. but still far more than some people in deprived areas can currently access.

“The potential to develop a cheap, durable, and portable device which can provide those most in need with safe, clean drinking water is an exciting prospect”. 

Said Dr Emma Emanuelsson, project lead and lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Keeping the manufacturing process simple for the HWT system is a top priority. Therefore, Bath University researchers designed the device to be 3D printed in biodegradable plant-based PLA. With this material, each device will cost just £5 ($6.50), and the researchers expect that locally trained workers might produce around 10,000 units of the HWT system a year.

Particular locations to be benefit from the 3D printed water treatment are in Africa. More specifically, in the southeast of the continent, Malawi will be part of a test for the HWT system.

Multi-disciplinary approach

water treatment

The researchers team will benefit from the skills and expertise of a wide range of academic disciplines. Source: University of Bath.

The project involves a multi-disciplinary research team at Bath. Mathematicians might develop a mathematical model to calculate the time water takes to pass through the HWT system; Meanwhile, digital design experts in Civil Engineering develop a designing software to create different 3D printed prototypes; similarly, Chemical Engineers study the different conditions that affect the drinking water; and experts in Social and Policy Sciences will determine how to implement the HWT device successfully in rural areas.

This project is in receipt of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). They are also seeking financing from other organizations to take forwards this technology and work with local NGOs to ensure the adoption this community-led innovation in Africa.

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Comments 2

  1. Profile photo of Richard Bynum

    I’m happy to hear this but a little blown away by people still living in these conditions. You would think humans have lived on earth long enough to fix problems such as not having access to clean drinking water. I guess for a long time progression has moved at a snails speed..and within the last 75-100 years, it has rocketed forward. We need to make sure we leave no one behind!

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