Who would have imagined that teabags can be used for purposes other than those of packaging tea leaves, and filtering their flavors? No one else except South Africa’s Stellenbosch University scientists led by Eugene Cloete, who invented a kind of teabag which, instead of filtering tea impurities, purifies water at the lowest price and energy consumption possible.
The material that the special teabags are made of is a normal one, used to make the rooibos teabags which are widely used in South Africa. Inside the sachets, though, the scientists placed ultra-thin nanoscale fibers and active carbon granules, with the role of filtering out possible contaminants and killing bacteria, respectively.
“What is new about this idea is the combination of inexpensive raw materials, namely activated carbon and antimicrobial nanofibres, in point-of-use water filter systems,” Marelize Botes, researcher in the university’s department of microbiology, told SciDev.Net.
Besides the fact that they save a lot of otherwise expensive electricity, the water filtering teabags are also environmentally friendly in the sense that they disintegrate after only a few days. “Anybody can use it anywhere; it’s affordable, clean and environmentally friendly,” said Jo Burgess, manager of South Africa’s Water Research Commission.
Each sachet has the power of cleaning one liter of water and costs around 50 pennies, or 3 South African cents. This is still a high price to pay for many, and the government will have to fund the use of the water purifying teabags.
The first commercially available teabags will be available before the end of the year, now being tested by the South African Bureau of Standards.