American scientists have developed a non-toxic powder, which disinfects water effectively when in contact with sunlight.
Composed of nano-sized flakes of aluminium oxide, molybdenum sulphide, copper and iron oxide, it is capable of killing thousands of bacteria per second when exposed to sunlight.
The aim is to be able to disinfect water quickly and effortlessly, since these materials are relatively inexpensive, and above all, abundant.
What’s innovative is their powerful action when in contact with each other.
This non-toxic process could rival other solutions that are sometimes more dangerous, such as chemical-based water treatments, and sometimes more time-consuming, such as ultra- violet light.
In the long term, this could represent a practical solution for many people who still lack access to safe drinking water on a daily basis.
To demonstrate the effects of this solution, the researchers from Stanford University and the SLAC laboratory, part of the US Energy Department, tested it on a water sample contaminated to a level of one million Escherichia coli bacteria per millilitre.
The experiment took place in full sunlight, and once the powder had been diluted, it took just 60 seconds for no live bacteria to be detected.
If they don’t immediately find bacteria to oxidise, the various elements in the powder break down into water and oxygen, and are thus eliminated in a matter of seconds.
The chemical byproducts generated by sunlight also dissipate very quickly.
The resulting water is therefore safe to drink.
After E. coli, the researchers plan to test this new powder on other pathogens, including viruses and parasites that cause serious illness.
If such a solution were one day to be implemented on a large scale, starting with water treatment plants, it would be a revolutionary step forward.
At present, it is estimated that over two billion people in the world have no access to safe drinking water.
The results of the scientists’ initial research are published in the journal Nature Water. – AFP Relaxnews