A team of scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras has developed a device that can deliver safe drinking water to families living in rural areas of the Developing World for a cost of about $2.50 US per year. That cost includes materials and operation. The research into the development of the device was published in the May issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The device uses a nanocomposite containing aluminum oxy-hydroxide-chitosan with embedded silver nanoparticles. The concentration of particles is less than 50 parts per billion which is better than the World Health Organization’s recommendations on water safety. It is the silver nanoparticles that react by attracting impurities present in the water and filtering them out. By boiling the device or treating it with lemon juice it can be used for up to six years before needing replacement.
The device can be deployed on a large scale for use in water treatment plants or a family can by a small sieve made of the materials which can then be attached to a container to filter the water. The Institute is seeking a manufacturer to start producing the device for mass distribution.
Why is this gadget so important? Each year the World Health Organization (WHO) reports 1.7 billion cases of diarrhea from unsafe drinking water. Waterborne intestinal diseases are the second leading cause of death in children under five years old. And 760,000 children die from uncontrolled diarrhea annually while it remains the leading cause of malnutrition for children under the age of five.