Water Purification: New Technologies that Might Change the World

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Water, or to be precise, clean water is the elixir of life. Pure water is not just essential to public health but also to energy and agricultural production. Unfortunately, there is not enough drinking water to meet the requirements of all the people in the world. The good news is there are a lot of new and upcoming technologies for advanced water purification. This article discusses 1) water purification the need of the hour, 2) some of the latest inventions (2013 and 2014) in water purification technologies, and 3) other advancements in water purification technologies.


It is true that the water that flows out of taps in the majority of countries now is safe and clean. However, there is still cause to be worried. Here are some eye-opening facts:

  • As per a 2012 United Nations Study, 11 percent of the global population (that’s 783 million people) as yet don’t have access to potable water.
  • Owing to the fact that people utilize water for activities such as washing and waste disposal, and irrigating crops, it is easy for sources of water near a human population to get contaminated.
  • By 2025, there will a major shortage of clean water in places such as Africa, India, China and The Middle East.
  • So many people contract water-borne disease owing to contamination of the water by disease-causing microbes or pathogens.


High tech materials with sunlight

As of March 2014, a team under Anne Morrisey from Dublin City University had come up with a new technology with which they hoped to deliver an easy water purifying system which utilizes sunlight. The system incorporates a cocktail of two ingredients – TiO2 (catalyst) and graphene. A catalyst is something that quickens a reaction without being utilized itself, but which usually relies on UV light. The group found the best TiO2 shape which would enable it to be active in visible light, and so, useful. The sticky graphene catches the pollutants as they flow through, thereby increasing their proximity to the TiO2 catalyst.

The system was not created to be a first-line purification system. Instead, it can be used to rid water of stubborn and harmful molecules following the former’s treatment by typical methods. There is hope that the system could remove pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other possibly damaging pollutants from water to make it fit for consumption. It being sunlight-powered, the system is a simple solution to a major problem. Altering existing purification systems to remove residual compounds is not feasibly owing to the high expense involved. Ideally, the system would be so made as to suit water pipes in zones where water treatments on a large scale are not yet practical.

Aquaporins for UPW (ultrapure water) in an energy efficient  way

There is a growing industrial thirst for “ultrapure” water (UPW) but, unfortunately, water filtration methods prove to be very unsustainable and energy consuming. Enter Aquaporin, the winner of the European inventor award 2014. The invention uses the natural movement of water between single cells in nature and the features of the proteins assisting this movement. The proteins termed aquaporins, enable water to move between cell membranes, while obstructing the passage of contaminants such as minerals and salts. The inventors included this principle in a “biomembrane” technology.

The usual water filtration methods guide contaminated water through a set of increasingly fine-pored filters at powerful pressures; a greatly energy-consuming process, more complicated by the possibility of pores becoming clogged. With respect to the new invention, it utilizes the process of “forward osmosis” for carrying water molecules through a membrane involving aquaporins merged in a backing layer.

The Aquaporin filters are already delivering an energy-saving technique for purifying water into the ultra pure state for industrial applications. The next step would involve the technology being applied to large-scale purification plants to purify industrial wastewater and desalinate seawater – a major contribution to drinking water supplies across the globe. The UPW got from the Aquaporin membrane is suitable for the photovoltaic and semiconductor industries, where even the minutest of particles could harm components in the nanometer range.

Aquavus technology – ultrasound waves for water desalination and purification

UK engineers and scientists invented Aquavus, a superior system that can be utilized to purify and desalinate ocean water with ultrasound waves. According to the CFO of the Aquavus team, one unit of the purification system can treat 3000l (approximately 800 gallons) of water each day. The former lead manager of NSAU (National Space Agency of Ukraine) leads the global R & D team for Aquavus, which encompasses specialists from Ukraine and other ex-USSR countries. He further said that the system utilizes powerful ultrasound to explode unclean water into particles of a size below ten microns. The microparticles evaporate and condense, resulting in pure water.

A microorganism to eat the pollutants

A research and development company in Ontario, Canada is modifying the way waste water is treated. As of August 2014, the company – Noble Purification was rolling out a filtration system (The Euglena BioFiltration System) utilizing a microorganism that consumed pollutants in water. The first system was to be installed in Peterborough.

By way of research that the now CEO of the company carried out for the Canada Wide Science Fair when still in high school, Adam Noble discovered Euglena’s capability to treat waste water. A recent breakthrough revealed that Euglena can absorb a number of carried pollutants in water, ranging from phosphates to lead. The system works by producing a controlled algae bloom within waste water and then “fooling” the Euglena into absorbing heavy metals, minerals, pollutants and nutrients from the environment. As of September, 2014, the company was planning to then convert the Euglena biomass resulting from the system into biofuel, fertilizer, and food.

This year, the company hoped to finish the first large-scale Euglena BioFiltration model with its partners – The Centre for Alternative Wastewater Treatment, Drain Brother’ Excavating and The City of Peterborough. The model would treat around 100,000 liters of waste water each day at the Peterborough Waste Water Treatment Plant and would sequester around 32 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. Noble Purification also announced the start of a Euglena Research Program (ERP) at Trent University. This program is designed to be a joint venture that would bring together the combined abilities of Trent researchers and students to better comprehend the unharnessed potential of Euglena. This would assist with enhancing the effectiveness of the purification technology and present a chance to sequence its genome.

TEQUATIC™ PLUS Fine Particle Filter

The TEQUATIC™ PLUS Fine Particle Filter from Dow Water & Process Solutions (DW & PS) assists with processing a wide variety of difficult, high-solids water. This provides a cost-efficient solution for wastewater treatment in manifold industry verticals, ranging from industrial wastewater treatment and reuse applications in the pulp and paper, food and beverage, laundry and textiles market to mobile water treatment systems and oil and gas applications.

According to the business unit director for filtration at DW&PS, the TEQUATIC™ PLUS filter assists customers with bringing down their cost of ownership by way of higher uptime and water recovery, and lower consumables and maintenance. This is in addition to decreased surcharges for waste disposal from local treatment plants. R&D Magazine recognized the invention as a revolutionary solution for treating difficult, high-solids water.

With its patented design, the system blends the power of cross-flow filtration with centrifugal separation and solids collection and continuous cleaning into a single device. Distinguishing itself from other technologies, the system consistently treats water holding total suspended solids (TSS) of a maximum of 10,000 mg/L – even in the presence of oils, fats, fibers and greases, and in changing conditions without continuous plugging, all while providing a water recovery that is usually 99 percent or more.

Features such as low to no chemical requirements, decreased consumables and water waste, minimal maintenance and high water recovery of the TEQUATIC™ PLUS Fine Particle Filter help decrease impact on the environment, while providing for better operator safety.

Treatment of hospital wastewater with Grundfos technology

An experimental plant in Denmark utilizing Grundfos technology cleansed a Danish hospital’s wastewater of medicinal and biological residues that typical sewage treatment is unable to handle. The project deals with a global problem. This is a great achievement considering that hospital wastewater is dangerous to both human health and marine life. With respect to humans, hospital wastewater is particularly hazardous for the staff at wastewater treatment plants. In the course of heavy rains and flooding, holding tanks in the sewer system may overflow. Regarding marine life, following treatment of sewage, it is released into environment in addition to its residual content of pharmaceuticals and pathogens, putting the local fauna habitually at risk. Even minute concentrations of the substances in hospital wastewater can negatively affect marine life. For example, certain painkillers are poisonous to trout.

The system is the result of an innovation partnership established by the regional government of Greater Copenhagen in July 2012 and incorporating Herlev Hospital and certain other private and public players including Grundfos A/S and DHI Denmark. The objective of this partnership was to hit upon a solution that took out the problematic substances in hospital wastewater instead of just diluting them with other streams of wastewater in the public treatment system.

The new treatment plant incorporates biological purification processes in addition to a system of ceramic filtration membranes and a closing “polishing with activated carbon and ozone. The system is highly flexible: each element in the modular system can be removed, expanded or adjusted to suit changing requirements.

The plant’s physical layout is also considerably different from typical wastewater facilities. Usually, hospital wastewater is fed into huge, municipal treatment plants that need a lot of space and call for long pipelines extending from the hospital to the treatment plant. The new water treatment plant is compact and can be delivered in five or four pre-fabricated modules. It is no larger than a small house and facilitates the local treatment of hospital wastewater followed by its safe release into the local environment.

The plant also locally treats odors and any airborne pathogens – they are cleansed from the air before release from the closed treatment system. Slush from the system (including any left behind pathogens) is dried on site and then conveyed off-site to be incinerated at a local incineration plant. As of November 2014, the treatment system is still just a pilot project.



The water purification device called Slingshot was developed by Dean Kamen. The device is powered by a Stirling engine running on a combustible fuel source. Slingshot claims to create drinking water from nearly any source (seawater, sewage or chemical waste) however dirty, by way of vapor compression distillation. It can work using cow dung as fuel and does not need any filters. The name of this purification device comes from the slingshot that David utilized to defeat Goliath.

A single Slingshot has the ability to purify over 250,000 liters of water each year that is adequate to satisfy the requirements of approximately 300 people. Thus, the invention has the potential to give millions of people access to clean water.

Tata Swach

The Tata Swach is a water purifier designed by TRDDC (Tata Chemicals and Tata Research, Development and Design Centre). Swach is a water purification machine targeting mainly low-income population in India who are short of access to clean drinking water. The product is marketed in three variants – Tata Swach Smart Magic, Tata Swach Smart and Tata Swach.

In the system, processed rice husk ash impregnated with nano silver particles is utilized to purify the water and to obliterate disease causing germs, bacteria, and others. Silver’s bactericidal and bacteriostatic properties can be credited to its capability of reacting with sulfhydryl groups in the cells ofbacteria that creates the structural modifications in the cell membranes of bacteria and communicates with nucleic acids. Through the very small particles (nano-size), the surface area increases enabling the bacteria to get adequate reaction time.

The water purifier can clean water at the speed of approximately 3-4 liters every hour. It comprises two parts: an upper reservoir in which impure water is put inside, where a lower middle portion and the bulb with the cartridge is located. There is another reservoir, to collect purified water, and which is present at the lower end. The two reservoirs can be stacked and arranged in such a manner so that the whole system would be enabled to work using gravity. The water purifier, Tata Swach Smart, has a capacity of 15 liter and hence is designed rather compact.

The key part of the purifying product is the Tata Swach Bulb. The bulb can purify approximately 3000 liters of water (depending on water quality), following then by replacing the bulb. A fuse in the bulb indicates when the cartridge has to be changed.

There are some other promising technologies in water purification that give us a reason to be positive. These include:

Purification using sand: Gravel and sand have been utilized for water purification for thousands of years. Straining water through grains of sand gets rid of bigger particles of contamination that are also the ones that assisted with transmitting the microbes responsible for water-borne diseases. Of late, researchers have determined how to coat sand grains with graphite oxide so as to develop “super sand” that apparently can filter detrimental substances (as for example, mercury) from water five times better than ordinary sand. Efforts continue to discover techniques to make super sand absorb even more contamination, and ultimately utilize it in developing countries where water quality is perilously polluted.

Arsenic-removing system using cysteine-coated plastic: Tsanangurayi Tongesayi, chemistry professor of Monmouth University (N.J.) created a low-cost arsenic removing system in which cut pieces of regular plastic beverage bottles are coated with an amino acid called cysteine. On adding the plastic pieces to water, the cysteine attaches to the arsenic, getting rid of it and making the water drinkable. In tests, the professor has been able to decrease the arsenic levels of water from a dangerous 20 parts per billion to 0.2 parts per billion which satisfies the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard.

In conclusion, let us be optimistic that the new technologies can and will change the world and save the world.

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