Nov 5, 2013 in Blog Articles

Natural disasters such as tsunamis, earth quakes, hurricanes, floods bring with them serious health hazards. Not least of which is that the water supply invariably becomes contaminated and unfit for human consumption.The damage caused invariably includes disruption of the electricity supply. So, whilst with power, aid agencies could plug in a chemical generator in order to disinfect the water. But with no power and only contaminated water to provide for the needs of potentially thousands of survivors, what is to be done? to effectively meet the drinking water needs of large numbers of people.A new material borne out of old usage could be a cost-effective and simple way to turn potentially contaminated water into clean drinking water, with just a quick squeeze.After seeing the effects of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 on the ability for survivors to obtain drinking water, a group of scientists and engineers from the U.S. and Singapore were inspired to create an alternative method of water purification that would be faster and simpler than filtration or boiling.The team borrowed from Alexander the Great who around 330BC kept his soldiers healthy when on campaign with the use of water bottles lined with silver. The answer silver nanoparticles, as the material can effectively kill bacteria when applied to filter membranes, but they also wanted to be sure that the silver wouldn’t leach out into the water during use. The solution lay in creating a porous polymer gel, which can quickly absorb water, and treating it with silver nanoparticles, which exposes the bacteria to the silver and effectively kills them.© Environ. Sci. Technol.”The researchers tested the gel by using it to sop up water laced with two troublesome bacterial species, Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis. After 15 seconds in the gel, the amount of bacteria in the water squeezed out was 0.1% that of the original levels. When the team increased the exposure time to five minutes, the amount of bacteria in the treated water was about one-millionth that of the tainted water. With such treatment times, the team could turn unsafe water into drinkable water.” – CEN Just four grams of the gel material were found to be able to absorb and disinfect half of a liter of water with just one cycle, and it can be reused more than 20 times and still be effective. The researchers say that because the new gel is so lightweight, disaster and emergency aid workers could easily deliver it to survivors via an airdrop, and that individual-sized gel treatments could be manufactured for less than 50 cents (USD) each.The results of the team’s work, “Superabsorbent Cryogels Decorated with Silver Nanoparticles as a Novel Water Technology for Point-of-Use Disinfection”, is published at Environmental Science and Technology.Filcon Filters is the southern African agent for MIOX Corporation the innovator and industry leader in on-site chemical generators for water disinfection. MIOX technology combines salt, water and power to generate cost-effective disinfectant chemistries on site. MIOX expertly designed chemical generators give customers the freedom to produce disinfectants in the amount they need, when they need it.