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Solar power plan to purify water in India

A solar-powered purification system could provide remote parts of India with clean drinking water for the first time.

Researchers at Edinburgh are developing low-cost, low-energy technology to decontaminate sewage water in villages.

Chemists and engineers are using state-of-the-art solar energy and water filtration technologies to develop the simple systems.

The initiative will not only provide safer drinking water, but could also help reduce the spread of disease, researchers say.

Water treatment

There is no systematic treatment of sewage in rural India. The Indian Government has focused on purifying contaminated water in rivers and streams, but the situation could be greatly improved by tackling the problem at source, the team says.  

To make contaminated water safe to drink, visible traces of waste are first removed using filters.

Next, any remaining organic matter and bacteria is broken down. The team is adapting its existing technologies to power this second stage in the decontamination process.

Off-grid system

Their system uses sunlight to generate high-energy particles inside solar-powered materials, which activate oxygen in the water to incinerate harmful pollutants and bacteria.

We are aiming to provide people in rural India with a simple off-grid water decontamination system. This could be achieved by simply fitting our modified solar-activated materials to containers of contaminated water positioned in direct sunlight.

Dr Aruna IvaturiSchool of Chemistry

Wider efforts

The team hopes to incorporate technologies developed during the five-month pilot project into larger-scale initiatives that deal with water contamination – a major problem in the developing world.

Around 77 million people in India do not have access to safe drinking water – more than any other country in the world.

The project is being carried out in partnership with the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Pune.

Working closely with our Indian partners, we aim to harness the sun’s energy to tackle a huge problem that affects many people around the world.

Professor Neil RobertsonSchool of Chemistry

Related links

School of Chemistry

School of Engineering

Indian Institute of Science Education & Research