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University of Edinburgh to use solar-powered purification system to treat water in India

Indian women from Rajasthan carry water over long distances due to lack of safe water sources
Indian women from Rajasthan carry water over long distances due to lack of safe water sources

A UK university is developing a solar-powered, low-cost purification system that could provide remote parts of India with clean drinking water for the first time.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh are working on a low-energy technology to decontaminate sewage water in villages, using state-of-the-art solar energy and water filtration technologies to develop the simple systems.

The initiative will not only provide safer drinking water, but could also help reduce the spread of disease, as there is no systematic treatment of sewage in rural India, the researchers said.

The Indian government has focused on purifying contaminated water in rivers and streams, but the situation could be greatly improved by tackling the problem at source, according the team.  

“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 at the Edinburgh School of Chemistry.

To make contaminated water safe to drink, visible traces of waste are first removed using filters and then any remaining organic matter and bacteria is broken down.

The team 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 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.

The project is being carried out in partnership with the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Pune.

Indian women from Rajasthan carry water over long distances due to lack of safe water sources