New Gel to Rid Water of Bacteria

28 Sep, 2013 | Guides & Resources
New Gel to Rid Water of Bacteria

When an emergency strikes, clean drinking water is vitally important but can be difficult to find. Disasters such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones can render usual sources of drinking water unsafe.

The 2004 tsunami affecting the Indian Ocean resulted in limited access to clean water for many. A water purification system that could quickly kill bacteria without the need for a source of power became the objective of researchers from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The scientists developed a spongy polymer gel that has antibacterial properties. The gel absorbs water and, when squeezed, releases it in a purified form.

This system potentially represents an incredibly fast and convenient way to access clean water. Boiling can rid contaminated water of parasites such as Giardia, but not all people can boil all the water they require following a natural disaster.

With just a four gram cylinder of the gel, half a litre of water per squeeze can be purified. The gel can also be used more than 20 times before its ability to disinfect is lost.

One of the creators of the gel, Xiao Hu, says that a pocket-sized version of the gel for the use of one person would cost approximately 50 cents to make and could be distributed after natural disasters by emergency aid workers in helicopters.