Access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities is still limited in many parts of the developing world. According to the World Health Organization: “just 60% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa and 50% of the population in the Pacific Ocean region use improved sources of drinking water.”
Researchers now believe they have developed a simple and low-cost technology to purify water. At the heart of the system is ‘Super Sand’. People have been using sand to purify water since ancient times but this new method involved giving the grains an oxide coating in graphite.
Fine sand is the best type for purifying water contaminated with pathogens, organic contaminants and heavy metal ions however the purification process is an extremely slow one. Dr Wei Gao explains how his new process works:
“Our product combines coarse sand with functional carbon material that could offer higher retention for those pollutants and at the same time gives good throughput.”
It is possible to subject the graphite oxide to modifications which would make it more effective against specific pollutants in dirty water. Another advantage of the technology is it’s cost effectiveness, as outlined by another member of the research team, Dr Mainak Majumder:
“This material demonstrates comparable performance to some commercially available activated carbon materials…But given that this can be synthesised using room temperature processes and also from cheap graphite sources, it is likely to be cost-efficient.”
Dr Majumder also pointed out that in countries such as Australia many of the mining companies produce a lot of graphite rich waste that could easily be harnessed for water purification.
If you are interested in taking part in some community development on your gap year travels then why not take a look at some of the amazing projects we have across the globe and find out how you can make a real difference to some of the world’s less fortunate people.