Students and researchers at St. Joseph’s University are looking for a low-tech, low-cost way to make water safe for drinking. Their work comes at a time when many people around the world spend hours each day searching for clean water.
Biology major Matthew Fadus saw that struggle during a university trip to Guatemala.
Fadus said initially the students had lots of grand ideas but settled on a solution that would be easy to replicate in countries such as Kenya or Tanzania.
“What we are trying to do is create water filters that will be used for years to come, not just make 10 or 20 water filters and then if they break they won’t be able to fix them themselves,” Fadus said. “We want something that will continue to grow and develop in these countries.”
The water filter is made from two 6-gallon buckets, cheesecloth, spigots and lots of very fine sand. Fadus says the space between the sand particles is so small that disease-causing bacteria are trapped on top as purified water drains through.
The team at the university’s Institute of Catholic Bioethics only used easy-to-purchase materials. Right now, the filters cost about $20 each to produce.
The students are testing the filter against e coli first, but hope that it will be ultimately effective against the bacteria that cause typhoid fever.
Senior Joseph Harrison, another team member, said the idea is simple.
“The filter actually gets more effective as time goes on because the bacteria get caught on the top. They actually add to the filtration because they produce an even smaller space for the water to go through,” Harrison said.
The lack of safe water causes disease and dehydration in many countries around the world.