Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A New Filter Shaped Like a Tea Bag

Photo courtesy: Care2

A group of researchers in South Africa has developed a new way to obtain clean drinking water. The recently revealed filter looks like a tea bag; but, contains activated carbon that removes dangerous chemicals found in water. The filter sits inside a tube that can be fitted on top of any bottle filled with contaminated water. As the water is poured into a cup through the filter, the contaminants are removed making the water safe for drinking.

In addition, it costs only half a cent to use, a remarkable feat considering other technologies can cost at least $100.

"We are coming in here at the fraction of the cost of anything else that is currently on the market," says Dr Cloete on BBC World Service.

According to him, the filter will not only stop harmful bacteria from getting into the water, it will kill them as well.

"We cover the tea bag material with nano-structured fibres, and instead of tea inside the tea bag, we incorporate activated carbon.

"The function of the activated carbon is to remove most of the dangerous chemicals that you would find in water."

He says that the function of the fibres is to create a filter where harmful bacteria is physically filtered out and killed."

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of people who can access clean drinking water has been improving steadily across the globe. But there are millions of people - many in Sub-Saharan Africa - who still do not have access to drinkable water.

The filter will also improve the taste of the water says Dr Cloete. "If you take ordinary tap water that you get in the city," he says, "that is chlorinated for instance."

The filter will purify water directly from the bottle; but, with the new filter, "the activated carbon will remove the chlorine so the water will actually taste better," he says.

Dr Cloete says his team wants to have an impact on 1.2 billion people around the world who do not have access to safe drinking water.

He says there have been extensive interest about the filter since the invention was announced.

"We have had many, many inquiries from aid organisations and from philanthropists who are quite prepared to sponsor these filters to people that need them most," he says.

But there are also commercial potentials, "for those people who go camping and those people who go hiking and so on," he adds.

Unfortunately, one filter can only be used for 1 liter of water before it needs to be discarded. Still, this is a significant development for the nearly 1 billion people without access to clean drinking water and 2.6 billion without access to sanitary facilities.

Dr. Eugene Cloete and his team at Stellenbosch University explain their "tea bag" filter in the video:

Via Care2, bbc

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