When Theresa Dankovich began researching the sanitizing potential of silver nanoparticles in 2008, little did she know that her work would contribute to “The Drinkable Book.” The book is actually a filtration kit equipped with a filter box and a book with pages that offer sanitation advice and function as filter sheets.
Designed by researchers at the University of Virginia, Carnegie Mellon University and WATERisLIFE (a nonprofit dedicated to providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene services worldwide,) “The Drinkable Book” operates as a cheap purification kit that eliminates 99.9 percent of bacteria found in water — comparable to the quality of tap water in the U.S. Each page from the book can filter up to 100 liters of water, and each book has 20 sheets of paper. That’s enough clean water to last one person’s needs for four years, WATERisLIFE claims.
But how does it work exactly? The book is printed like any other, except the pages are lined with silver nanoparticles, which costs only a few extra cents. As needed, one can rip out a half-sheet of paper from the book, place it in the filter box, which also serves as the book’s cover, and allow the silver ions to attach to and kill harmful bacteria. The water seeps through the paper, leaving it safe to drink. Tips for clean drinking are also printed on every sheet with food-grade ink.
Dankovich, the chemist who conceived the idea, says the product is one of the cheapest ways to make water safe to drink. “It doesn’t require power and it’s very intuitive,” she said.
Last year, Dankovich field-tested the product in South Africa, and she now plans to take it to Ghana for more tests. “Our main goal is to reduce the spread of diarrheal diseases, which result from drinking water that’s been contaminated with things like E. coli and cholera and typhoid,” Dankovich said.
For the 3.4 million people who die each year from water-related diseases, the innovative product offers renewed hope. It’s cheap to produce, inventive and one of the niftiest products WATERisLIFE has seen in recent years.
“The Drinkable Book” has the potential to enhance the lives of an untold number of individuals worldwide. But the implications don’t stop there. Women spend a collective 200 million hours a day to find and collect water that is safe to drink. If those same women had access to “The Drinkable Book,” millions of hours would be saved — hours that could be used for work, education and social activities to enrich and extend the lives of family members.
– Joseph McAdams