Contaminated water transmits deadly diseases that kill nearly 300,000 children under five every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While nearly a million people have no access to clean water near their home. Horrendous suffering and human right injustices that demand the swift and effective alignment of policy and innovation to ensure equal access for all to clean drinking water.
And in discovering that the straw-like substance in nonflowering trees can be fabricated to purify dirty water, MIT engineers have made an important innovation breakthrough. A filter that removes more than 99% of pathogens like E. coli and rotavirus from water. Equivalent to WHO’s ‘two-star comprehensive protection’ standard.
Xylem filters are made from inexpensive and abundantly available materials – Rohit Karnik, MIT professor
During testing in India the researchers made the filters from native trees and used them with local citizens. The result was water that could be purified at ‘a rate of one liter per hour’.
“Because the raw materials are widely available and the fabrication processes are simple, one could imagine involving communities in procuring, fabricating, and distributing xylem filters,” says Rohit Karnik, professor of mechanical engineering and associate department head for education at MIT. “For places where the only option has been to drink unfiltered water, we expect xylem filters would improve health, and make water drinkable.”
Rohit Karnik, professor of mechanical engineering and associate department head for education at MIT, says these inexpensive filters, which could last for up to two years at a time, “could be made available at local shops, where people can buy what they need, without requiring an upfront investment as is typical for other water filter cartridges.”
The researchers are now investigating ways to produce the lifesaving filters at scale, as they bid to make them an integral part of peoples everyday water purification habits.
Earlier this week World Water Day shone the spotlight on our most valuable natural resource. We highlighted the work being done by Charity: water, which has helped nearly 12 million people gain access to clean water. All the money it receives in public donations is invested 100% into providing clean water where it is needed most. Making it a way everyone with some spare money can have a guaranteed impact.