The Injectable Water Filtration System could help improve access to clean drinking waters around the world

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More than two billion people, or roughly a quarter, of the global population, do not have access to clean water. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have created a new, portable, and affordable water filter solution that aims to change this.

The new system uses a syringe to collect dirty water and inject it into a filter made of hydrogel that removes nearly all particles. The researchers claim that this device offers significant advantages over existing commercial options in terms of cost, simplicity and effectiveness. It also provides a sustainable solution. Users can easily decontaminate nearby streams and rivers to make them drinkable.

“The urgent concern of contaminated water, particularly in remote regions and underdeveloped countries where people rely on contaminated drinking water sources, demands immediate recognition and attention,” said Guihua, a professor of Materials Science at the Cockrell School of Engineers Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Our system’s high efficiency at removing different types of particles offers a practical yet attractive solution to improving freshwater availability.”

Recent research has been published in Nature Sustainability.

Filter paper and microporous materials are the most common options available today for portable water filtering of tiny particles. According to the research these devices filter out approximately 40% and 80% particles larger than 10 micrometers respectively. This new system captures close to 100 percent of these particles.

It is made with low-cost materials that are readily available and sustainable. The main innovation is a web of nanocellulose fibres that traps particles as the newly cleaned water passes by.

All the user needs to do is insert the syringe into the nearest source of water, draw out the water with the syringe, and then inject the water through the filter. The system will take care of the rest by spitting clean, drinkable, water.

The filter system has been tested on several types of water, including muddy river water, water contaminated with plastic microparticles, and water from a pond. The hydrogel films can be reused up to 30 times.

The research team has tested this technology using syringes that are as large as 1,5 liters. This is approximately 40% of the daily drinking water requirements for an individual. The researchers plan to develop the technology further to be able to meet global drinking needs at larger scales.

Researchers were motivated to work on this project by one of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to improve the standards of drinking water and sanitation in all countries. According to the U.N. achieving this goal will require a six-fold increase in drinking water by 2030.

Chuxin Lei is a graduate student in Yu’s laboratory and the lead author. She said, “The reality of it is that a large portion of the world population does not have access to clean drinking water, even where there are fresh water sources.” “There is an urgent need for simple, universal, and efficient materials and devices for purifying particle-contaminated water, which should be able to help people around the world obtain clean water.”

In addition to the Northeast Forestry University, Shanghai Tech University (China) and Tsinghua University (China), team members include collaborators.

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