Silver nanoparticles provide clean water for $2 a year

Thalappil Pradeep at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai and colleagues have developed a filter based on an aluminium composite, embedded with silver nanoparticles. As water flows through the filter, the nanoparticles are oxidised and release ions, which kill viruses and bacteria, and neutralise toxic chemicals such as lead and arsenic.

Some nanoparticles leach into the water but at concentrations that pose no threat to health. Pradeep describes the process of making the filter as “water positive”: 1 litre of water spent on making nanoparticles gives 500 litres of clean water.

In tests, a 50-gram composite filtered 1500 litres of water without needing reactivation, so they estimate that a 120g-filter that costs just $2 would provide safe drinking water for a family of five for one year.

PNAS – Biopolymer-reinforced synthetic granular nanocomposites for affordable point-of-use water purification

Abstract – Creation of affordable materials for constant release of silver ions in water is one of the most promising ways to provide microbially safe drinking water for all. Combining the capacity of diverse nanocomposites to scavenge toxic species such as arsenic, lead, and other contaminants along with the above capability can result in affordable, all-inclusive drinking water purifiers that can function without electricity. The critical problem in achieving this is the synthesis of stable materials that can release silver ions continuously in the presence of complex species usually present in drinking water that deposit and cause scaling on nanomaterial surfaces. Here we show that such constant release materials can be synthesized in a simple and effective fashion in water itself without the use of electrical power. The nanocomposite exhibits river sand-like properties, such as higher shear strength in loose and wet forms. These materials have been used to develop an affordable water purifier to deliver clean drinking water at US $2.5/y per family. The ability to prepare nanostructured compositions at near ambient temperature has wide relevance for adsorption-based water purification.

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