The most widely known way to purify water is through boiling, but in the wake of natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and tsunamis, many victims lose the power sources needed to provide the required heat. Thankfully, according to Popular Science, researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have created a quicker and easier method to sanitize large amounts of water.
Following the 2004 South Asian tsunami, scientists sought to develop a system that could disinfect water without heat or electricity. The resulting polymer gel contains nanoparticles of silver, which eliminate bacteria when oxidized, and works by soaking up water and releasing it in a clean form with mild pressure. The gel is highly porous and absorptive, allowing the process to be completed after only 15 seconds and repeated up to 20 times with no significant difference in the purification quality.
Xiao Hu, one of the project’s developers, predicted that an individual, pocket-sized issue of the gel would cost only 50 cents to manufacture. The gel promises to be more effective than traditional methods of purification; with a single squeeze, half a liter of water can be produced from a 4-gram cylinder of the gel. The product is also small, lightweight, and durable, meaning emergency workers could drop the gel from helicopters during relief efforts. The researchers plan to field test their product in Myanmar in the near future.
Although 11 percent of the global population, or 783 million people, lack access to potable water, according to JMP, the gel is intended primarily for disaster assistance. Other inexpensive devices are in the works to disinfect water on a larger, more permanent scale.
Edited by Blaise McNamee