Access to clean drinking water in many parts of the world is what determines whether a life can be saved or lost. This is especially the case in parts of Africa, where the levels of pollution are way above any regulatory limits, while income is so low that even the cheapest water purification mean seems way out of reach.
However, it is not all lost for these communities, especially when there are still some people who care and invest in projects with one aim, to save lives. Fernando Mazariengas, an inventor from Guatemala, is one of these people. Around ten years ago, he designed a water purification system made of clay, which can be produced out of locally sourced materials. His idea was then developed further by Susan Murcott, lecturer from MIT, who managed to realize it in areas where fresh water is of an essence.
The technology is relatively simple. To produce one of the ceramic filters, all that is needed is some clay and material that is easily combustible, such as rice husks. By firing the clay, the combustible material is burnt creating a net of small pores that filter out bacteria and microbes, while the water penetrates through. In order to strengthen the antibacterial properties, the filters are covered with silver nanoparticles, resulting in a reduction of water contamination by up to 98%. One filter is enough to provide enough clean water for an entire large family.
Around the world, there are already 52 factories that produce these filters in 31 countries. The most recent one opened its doors in Ghana two years ago. Under the supervision and coordination of Susan Murcott, the owner of the production company, the factory supplies filters to more than 100,000 people in the area. Unfortunately, without the help of various organizations, the work would never have been as successful as it is. The reason for this is that the cost of making a filter is $10, while the highest price the company could ask for is $6, a sum still out of reach for quite a number of families.
Nevertheless, the project is functioning, and it is saving lives. Murcott has been involved in a number of other projects in Ghana, where pollution and lack of sanitation, have taken hundreds of thousands of lives already. By now, Murcott and her team have provided clean drinking water to so many families in one of the most polluted areas of the world, that we can only admire the work and try to support such initiatives in any way possible.
Image (c) MIT