, , ,

Ceramic Filters for a Cleaner Future

Rural South Africa faces many challenges. The prevalence of HIV/AIDs is partnered with high rates of other diseases, both infectious and non-communicable.

Limpopo Province is among the poorest of South African communities, with a 34 percent poverty rate. In addition, Limpopo also has one of the lowest rates of accessible drinking water. Only 44 percent of the population has regular access to potable water. The Mukondeni Filter Factory located in Ha-Mashamba is addressing limited water access with a new kind of water filter that could be a game-changer for communities where access to clean water is a challenge.

Pure Madi is a nonprofit run by the University of Virginia in partnership with the University of Venda in Thohoyandou, South Africa. Pure Madi designed the ceramic water filter of the same name to provide a sustainable solution to the world’s growing water problems. Pure Madi, named after the Tshivenda word for water, is cheap to make, simple to use and long-lasting.

The ceramic filters are flowerpot-shaped clay pots that can treat between one and three litres of water in an hour. Local clay is mixed with sawdust and shaped into a pot, then fired in a kiln. As the ceramic hardens, the sawdust burns away, leaving a porous matrix that will filter particulates out of the water. It is then treated with a dilute solution of silver nanoparticles inside and out. These nanoparticles lodge in the pores of the filter and kill pathogens like Eschericia coli and Vibrio cholera.

The filters are designed to fit into five gallon buckets that rural families commonly use to haul water. By the time water has passed through the filter, a reported 99.9 percent of all pathogens have been killed and filtered out. The filters last for about five years and are inexpensive, as a result, there is almost no access barrier.

Access to clean water is crucial to the development of communities. Without clean water, hygiene and health are almost impossible to maintain and agriculture suffers from low yields and substandard product. One could say that development grows from the groundwater up. Without access to clean water, communities lack functional sanitation services, experience constant illness and unproductive farms. Such hindrances keep a population from exploring the business and education opportunities required for further development.

Every year, between three and four million people die from waterborne diseases easily preventable with modern technology. Cholera and E. coli, rare in the developed world, are a major threat in areas without water filtration services.

The Mukondeni Filter Factoy will eventually be able to produce over 500 filters a month. Pure Madi’s 10-year plan is to build sister factories all over rural South Africa and eventually other countries as well. Pure Madi has stated that its ultimate goal is to serve 500,000 people with new filters every year.

Marina Middleton

Sources: How Stuff Works, Azo Materials, Tree Hugger, Gizmag, UVA Today
Photo: Flickr