News Feature | January 7, 2015

New Invention Purifies Water Using Sunlight And Nanoparticles

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

An invention from Down Under uses sunlight and nanoparticles to purify water on the cheap.

Project leader Eldon Tate, a nanotech researcher and PhD candidate at Victoria University in Australia, is hoping to break new ground in water purification.

"The idea of harnessing the power of sunlight to purify water in developing nations is not a new one but, so far, no-one has cracked the magic formula of an efficient and yet inexpensive system, Tate says," according to Stuff.

The invention works with anti-bacterial nanoparticles, which harness the sunlight to crunch down organic contaminants, Tate said in the report.

"We're not really filtering it, we're using the energy from the sun to break down all the bad stuff in it," he said, per the report.

Tate explained why his invention improves on systems already in use.

"One of the problems with the materials they're using at the moment is that they can only use high-intensity UV light but we have [nanoparticles] that use visible light – which makes them much more efficient and can be used on cloudy days," he said, per the report.

"And one of the good things about them is that you don't have to use a lot of them – they're highly reactive," he continued.

The nanoparticles are deposited in the plastic of the water purifier, meaning that they will not contaminate the water themselves, according to the report.

One major benefit of this system is its low cost.

"Even though silver was on the nanoparticle recipe list, so little was needed Tate was confident his system would be cheap enough to suit developing countries," the report said.

Tate explained, "We're talking a fraction of a percent."

Tate says nanotechnology is finding an increasing number of practical applications.

"I think [nanotechnology is] definitely starting to come to the forefront. There's been a lot of fundamental work that's been done now, and it's time to start seeing nanoparticles and nanotechnology turning up in more consumer products, more recently," he told Radio New Zealand.

He won scholarship money to pursue the project. “To have this extra funding means I can take the technology out of the lab and start real-world testing,” he said, per the university.