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The technologies behind providing clean water for rural India

By Karen Graham     Feb 2, 2017 in Technology
A solar-powered filtration system could provide remote areas of India with clean drinking water for the first time. Researchers are developing a low-cost, low-energy technology to decontaminate sewage water in rural villages.
Led by Professor Neil Robertson, researchers at the University of Edinburgh's School of Chemistry are developing a water filtration system using state-of-the-art solar energy and water filtration technologies.
It may be hard to believe, but despite India's booming economy, tens of millions of people in India to not have access to potable water. Added to that statistic, over 600,000 children in India die every year from water and sanitation-related diseases, according to UNICEF. India's far-flung regions are home to 70 percent of the country's population, and there is no systematic treatment of sewage in these rural areas.
Adding to the problem is the fact that about 60 percent of the groundwater in the massive Indo-Gangetic river basin, named for the Indus and the Ganges Rivers is contaminated and not fit to drink or use to irrigate crops, according to Digital Journal in August 2016.
Pharmaceutical factories  in India are dumping antibiotic residues into the lakes and rivers.
Pharmaceutical factories in India are dumping antibiotic residues into the lakes and rivers.
Yuvraj P/Wikimedia
The Water purification system
The Indian government has been tackling the problem by focusing on purifying contaminated river and stream waters, but the research team felt that tackling the problem at its source would greatly improve the results. Basically, the team developed a two-stage water purification process using existing technology and then adapting those technologies to power a second stage of the process.
In making the water safe to drink, the first stage of the process involves removing visible waste using filtration. Next, any remaining organic matter and bacteria are broken down. This second step is critical because these microscopic contaminants could go right through filters.
This second part of the process uses sunlight to generate high-energy particles within a photocatalytic material, which uses light to generate a chemical reaction. These, in turn, activate molecules of oxygen, mobilizing them to destroy bacteria and other organic matter.
Because there is no power source, all the system requires in this off-grid system is attaching the photocatalyst to containers of contaminated water in direct sunlight until they’re safe to drink. The research team is now working with the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research to upscale the technologies they have worked on during a five-month pilot project, According to Inhabitat.
Dr. Aruna Ivaturi 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."
More about Solar energy, water filtration, Technologies, decontaminate sewage, Rural india
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