Award-winning water filter uses nanotechnology and sand to make clean H2o

A water filter that can absorb anything from copper and fluoride to bacteria, viruses and pesticides has won a prestigious African innovation prize.

The award-winning device uses an unlikely mix of nanotechnology and sand to treat contaminated water, turning potentially life-threatening H2o into clean, safe and cheap drinking water.

Askwar Hilonga, the Tanzanian chemical engineer who invented the filter, said that the invention was designed to help the 70% of households in his home country that do not have access to a clean water supply.

The prize is worth £25,000 ($38,348) and is the first of its kind to be awarded by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering.

Explaining his two-step device to the BBC, Hilonga said: “I put water through sand to trap debris and bacteria,

“But sand cannot remove contaminants like fluoride and other heavy metals so I put them through nano materials to remove chemical contaminants.”

Each filter costs $130 but Hilonga is promising to use part of the £25,000 prize money to buy materials in bulk and reduce the device’s cost, making it affordable to those most in need.

“For people who cannot afford water filters, we have established water stations where people come and buy water at a very very low, affordable price,” he said.

In the above Youtube video, Hilonga explains that while other resins can remove up to 97% of micro-organisms, his target is to produce a nano-filter that can eliminate “99.999% of micro-organisms, bacteria and viruses”.

The Tanzanian entrepreneur’s family regularly suffered from water-borne diseases when he was growing up. Once Hilonga graduated from his PhD in nanotechnology in South Korea he began researching how nano materials could be used to purify water, leading him to the development of the now award-winning nano-filter.

Head Judge Malcolm Brinded said: “His innovation could change the lives of many Africans, and people all over the world.”

Image via Katherine Johnson / cc

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