Scientists have developed the first machine that can purify dirty water into clean drinking water within minutes. This could potentially provide a solution to billions of people around the world.
The mini portable water-filtration plant—known as The Ninja—has been developed and is currently being tested by university scientists. It could be in use in 2020.
Initial tests have shown that the 1.5-meter-squared treatment plant can purify dirty water drawn from the pond into water meeting the United Kingdom drinking standards at a rate of 500 liters (approx. 132 gallons) per hour.
In just three weeks of trials at the University of the West of England (UWE), in Bristol, scientists produced a whopping 300,000 liters (approx. 79,252 gallons) of clean water, enough to fill 900,000 plastic bottles.
Professor Darren Reynolds, lead scientist on the project at UWE, said: “With this treatment technology, we’re trying, in some small way, to help solve a big problem.
“In the 21st century, many people all over the world lack access to basic clean drinking water.
“Globally, at least two billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces resulting in millions of deaths, mostly in children.
“Clean water should be available for everyone.
“Our system is capable of treating freshwater, from sources including boreholes, rivers, ponds and lakes, contaminated with bacteria, and turning it into crystal clear drinking water,” he added.
The Ninja is being developed by scientists at UWE and has the potential to quickly produce safe drinking water for decentralized communities or those affected by humanitarian crises.
It is currently being trialed at the Bristol campus and will be deployed to India in 2020 for further testing—before being used by communities.
The Ninja uses an ultra-filtration system and electrochemically activated solutions that disinfect raw water, removing biological contaminants including bacteria and viruses. It also reduces agricultural and industrial contaminants such as nitrates, ammonia, and metals.
The system has taken 10 years of work, having started life as an academic research project in a small shed on campus, and affectionately been named Stanley by researchers. It is part of UWE Bristol’s drive to make a difference on a global level with groundbreaking research.
UWE Bristol has collaborated on the project with industrial partner Portsmouth Aqua Ltd, which designs and manufactures the treatment systems.
The unit will be trialed in freshwater catchments in India as part of a U.K. Research and Innovation project. The fluorescence sensor will monitor, in real time, the microbial activity of Indian freshwater sources to determine the dirtiness of the water that local communities rely upon.
Professor Reynolds added: “The Ninja is an industrial-scale piece of equipment which can be easily transported overseas.
“It can be used to help whole communities by producing clean, safe drinking water from dirty or contaminated sources at the touch of a button.
“We can even develop the system to be powered from solar panels if needed.
“The implementation of the unit in India will allow us to further understand the operating challenges associated with this technology.”
The 700,000 pound (approx. US$914,000) project is a collaboration with Professor Tapan Dutta from the Bose Institute in Kolkata, in West Bengal. It comes as India faces increasing population pressures, particularly with exponential urbanization and industrialization, and environmental issues.
Dr. Bethany Fox, a post-doctoral research scientist working on the project in India, said: “We’re thrilled to be part of this prestigious international collaboration.
“We are excited to be deploying two state-of-the-art technologies that have been many years in the making at UWE Bristol.
“The partnership will involve the use of our UK-developed technologies in India, and the subsequent development of Indian-inspired sensors and treatment approaches in the UK.
“It is ultimately envisaged that the outcomes from the project will provide solutions to water quality issues to local authorities, policymakers, stakeholder and local communities.
“The response from local communities in India so far to the testing has been positive,” Dr. Fox added. “They’re really pleased we are out here making the effort to understand the quality of their water.”