Aug 13, 2010
Stellenbosch University scientists patent tea-baglike water filterBack
© Reuse this
Professor Eugene Cloete, microbiologist and Dean of the Faculty of Science at Stellenbosch University (SU), together with researchers from the Department of Microbiology and SU polymer scientists, recently patented the portable, easy-to-use and environment-friendly water filter bag, which looks like a tea bag.
The bag is filled with active carbon granules that remove harmful chemicals like endocrine disruptors. Cloete says that each “tea bag” filter can clean the most polluted water to the point where it is 100% safe to drink. Once used, the bag is thrown away, and a new one is inserted into the bottle neck.
The sachet combines years of funda-mental research on water purification, nanotechnology and food microbiology in a practical way. It aims to provide easy access to clean drinking water for vulnerable communities living near polluted water streams. There are also plans to commercialise the filter bag into a product that can be used by outdoor enthusiasts on hiking or camping trips.
As a past executive vice-president of global network of water professionals the International Water Association and a member of Coca-Cola’s global panel of water experts, Cloete believes water provision and sustainability go hand in hand. “The lack of adequate, safe and affordable water supplies impacts severely on vulnerable groups, such as the poor, the elderly, HIV patients and children,” he says.
A water security risk index of 165 nations, released by UK-based risk consultancy firm Maplecroft in June found that African and Asian nations had the most vulnerable water supplies, judged by factors such as availability of drinking water, demand per capita and dependence on rivers that flow through other countries. Cloete adds that more than 90% of all cholera cases are reported in Africa, and 300-million people on the continent do not have access to safe drinking water.
“The ‘tea bag’ filter can show the way forward, as it represents decentralised, point-of-use technology. “It can assist in meeting the needs of people who live or travel in remote areas, or people whose regular water supply is not treated to potable standards. “As it is impossible to build purification infrastructure at every polluted stream, we have to take the solution to the people,” he notes.
The invention has become one of the first significant projects of the recently established Stellenbosch University Water Institute, a transdisciplinary initiative established to intensify the search for lasting solutions to the country’s and the continent’s water challenges. Cloete, who also chairs the Water Insti-tute, says he got the idea for the filter during an introductory visit to the SU’s technology transfer company, InnovUS, 18 months ago.
“I was shown the electrospinning technique of spinning ultrathin fibres on a nanoscale, developed by polymer scientist Dr Eugene Smit, of the SU Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science. My mind immediately started churning up the possibilities of how it could be used to clean polluted water,” he says.
A research team was put together and, after various trials and experiments, a filter sachet was developed that not only resembles a tea bag in shape and size, but is made of the same biodegradable material as off-the-shelf rooibos tea bags. The inside of the tea bag material is coated with a thin film of biocides encapsulated within minute nanofibres, which kill all disease-causing microbes.
“We tested the filter with water taken from a river in the Stellenbosch area. The samples were highly polluted with pathogens, but they came out completely clean on the other side,” says postdoctoral fellow Dr Michéle de Kwaadsteniet, who is working on the project with Cloete and Professor Leon Dicks, of the Department of Microbiology.
Postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Microbiology and a member of the water filter bag research team Dr Marelize Botes says that it is exciting to be part of a potentially life-changing project. “It is such an easy-to-use and practical solution to something that’s been a significant challenge for so long,” she notes.
The ‘tea bag’ filter is currently being tested by the South African Bureau of Standards, after which the team hopes to roll it out to various communities.
The Stellenbosch University Water Institute and its ‘tea bag’ water filter form part of SU’s Hope Project, a set of development goals aimed at improving the quality of life of people living in South Africa and on the rest of the continent.
SU rector and vice chancellor Professor Russel Botman adds that the university believes that science should serve the needs of society. “By aligning the expertise of our scientists with the national and global development agenda, we want to become more relevant to society,” he concludes.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
Other Water News
Updated 7 hours ago The Department of Water and Sanitation has announced plans to build a pipeline to supply water to Jericho in the North West where residents have battled with a shortage of drinking water for a number of weeks. The DWS announced a R2.8-million pipeline which would...
The Botswana government is accelerating construction of a 16-billion pula ($1.6-billion) pipeline meant to carry water from the Zambezi river to the south of Botswana, as the government wants to complete the project in seven years. The negotiations, and other...
Article contains comments
Updated 2 hours 3 minutes ago South Africa has been shortlisted by The European Outsourcing Association (EOA) for the Offshoring Destination of the Year 2015 award, competing against Bulgaria and Latvia. Now in its sixth year, the EOA Awards recognised and celebrated the efforts of companies who...
Updated 2 hours 45 minutes ago South Africa planned to offer five reasons as to why it should retain its status as an African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) beneficiary during public hearings scheduled for Friday in Washington DC. The US House of Representatives passed a ten-year extension to...
Updated 2 hours 51 minutes ago The Competition Commission on Tuesday approved telecommunications giant Telkom’s buy-out of Business Connexion (BCX) with conditions. The conditions included a price freeze on affected products in the upstream by Telkom, a limit on the number of job losses arising...
Recent Research Reports
Real Economy Year Book 2015 (PDF Report)
There are very few beacons of hope on South Africa’s economic horizon. Economic growth is weak, unemployment is rising, electricity supply is insufficient to meet demand and/or spur growth, with poor prospects for many of the commodities mined and exported. However,...
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2015 (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Real Economy Year Book comprises separate reports under the banner Real Economy Insight and investigates key developments in the automotive, construction, electricity, road and rail, steel, water, gold, iron-ore and platinum sectors.
Real Economy Insight: Water 2015 (PDF Report)
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2015 (PDF Report)
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2015 (PDF Report)
Real Economy Insight: Road and Rail 2015 (PDF Report)
This Week's Magazine
Daimler truck test engineer Dirk Stranz pushes one button, and then retracts his hands from the steering wheel of the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025. “And now the truck is driving itself.”
The statutory body responsible for skills development and support in the banking sector, BANKSETA, was investing R68-million in the capacity building project of the University of Venda (UniVen), announced Bankseta company secretary Caroline King at a media event in...
Legacy information technology (IT) systems are becoming increasingly obsolete because of the maturity, efficiencies and cost effectiveness of cloud-based IT services, says information and communication technology major T-Systems subsidiary Intervate head Lionel...
Many complementary services enable companies to derive broad value from data inside and outside them. The complexity of data management means that companies’ strategies determine the various data systems and functions they will use, says PBT Group regional sales...
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has announced that it had awarded the country’s first remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) pilot’s licence. It was issued on Friday, July 10, to SACAA employee and qualified commercial pilot Nicole Swart,...