Recently, we published an article which looked at the use of solar energy to extract oil. The world is looking for simple solutions to its complex problems. One of the larger challenges (and problem) is access to clean drinkable water. Lack of potable water is staggering among the poor nations of the world – it affects 884 million people according to last count.
It’s not only access but the death rate that’s alarming due to lack of clean drinking water among the poor. More than 3.5 million people die each year from water-related diseases. Researchers at Purdue University are looking towards the sun to bring down the costs of providing clean drinking water. It could have a huge economic impact. After all, did you know that people living in the world’s worst slums commonly pay more per liter of water – and more on a per capita basis of income – than people living in more prosperous and developed parts of the world?
The system in theory is simple. Purdue scientists have developed a system which uses the sun’s UV rays to clean the water. A parabolic solar dish captures the sun’s rays and concentrates it, and then focuses them on a pipe through which water flows. The concentrated rays act on the water inside the pipe.
UV disinfection is not a new technology. But existing systems use electricity which is not readily available in many poorer parts of the world. The new system has been demonstrated to kill E.coli. Doctoral student Eric Gentil Mbonimpa, a native of Rwanda (on the eastern side of Lake Victoria along the Nile River), and Bryan Vadheim, an undergraduate from Montana State University, Blatchley successfully conducted the experiment in the relative weaker sunlight of Indiana.
It’s good news because places like Africa and Asia have a much higher (near-perfect) incidence of sunlight. Also, structural portions of the dish are made from Paulownia, a rapidly growing tree that provides a stable source of building materials along the equator. Next steps for Blatchley’s prototype include confirming that it can kill such lethal germs as cholera, typhoid fever and cryptosporidiosis.