London: Scientists are developing a low-cost, solar-powered water purification system that may help over 77 million people in remote parts of India get access to safe drinking water. According to researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, there is no systematic treatment of sewage in rural India.
The government has focused on purifying contaminated water in rivers and streams, but the situation could be greatly improved by tackling the problem at source, researchers said. To make contaminated water safe to drink, visible traces of waste are first removed using filters. Then any remaining organic matter and bacteria is broken down.
The team, including researchers from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune, is adapting its existing technologies to power this second stage in the decontamination process. The system uses sunlight to generate high-energy particles inside solar-powered materials, which activate oxygen in the water to incinerate harmful pollutants and bacteria.
The initiative will not only provide safe drinking water, but could also help reduce the spread of disease, researchers said. “We are aiming to provide people in rural India with a simple off-grid water decontamination system. This could be achieved by simply fitting our modified solar-activated materials to containers of contaminated water positioned in direct sunlight,” said Aruna Ivaturi from the University of Edinburgh.
The team hopes to incorporate technologies developed during the five-month pilot project into larger-scale initiatives that deal with water contamination – a major problem in the developing world.
Around 77 million people in India do not have access to safe drinking water – more than any other country in the world, researchers said. “Working closely with our Indian partners, we aim to harness the sun’s energy to tackle a huge problem that affects many people around the world,” said Professor Neil Robertson from the University of Edinburgh.