Teenager Develops Economical Purifier Using Organic Waste to Make Clean Water
Sofia Adamsom, Staff
Young talent such as Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai, a 13-year-old from Odisha, India, who designed a water purifier that functions on waste corn cobs, is the type of inspiration needed in a world where most people are focused on consuming versus solving problems such as water contamination.
Industry, deforestation, fossil fuel excavation, and over-consumption have turned many natural waterways into hazardous waste. Considering that water is vital to human health and survival, one might deem water purification to be one of the most important challenges facing society.
Many developing countries do not have the resources to provide adequate access to potable water, and the water from the tap is frequently contaminated with pathogens, suspended solids, sediment, and toxins. Even what industrialized, developed countries consider to be water that’s safe for drinking is water treated with chemicals some consider to be quite dangerous. The water treatment processes and the water distribution systems often introduce chemicals, including heavy metals and pollutants, such as pharmaceuticals, into municipal water systems. The overall consequences of this global issue are immediate visible side-effects, such as diarrhea and gastrointestinal ailments, as well as potential long-term health problems.
Which brings us back to Lalita. Her innovative water purifier made it into the Google Science Fair in 2015. It is a low-cost bio-absorbent based water purifier made out of waste corn cobs. This part of the maize plant is rigid and porous, which makes it a suitable absorbent for contaminants such as oxides of salts, detergents, colored dyes, oils, grease and even some heavy metals. It is also worth mentioning that the corn cob is an abundant bio-waste product of the corn industry.
Below is an image of the five-layer prototype system developed by Lalita which utilized different substances to purify water, including long pieces of corn cobs, small pieces of corn cobs, powdered corn cobs, activated charcoal made from corn cobs, and fine sand.
Lalita tested her water purifier using water polluted with several added chemical impurities and found that different layers absorb different contaminants. For example, the charcoal layer was effective in absorbing colored substances, while the powdered corn cob was responsible for absorbing most of the gasoline waste. A report published about her project on the Google Science Fair website states:
“If the drain pipe of the household is connected to a chamber having different layers of corn cobs in partition layers or to an S-trap pipe having corn cobs, it will separate about more than 70-80 % of contaminants including suspended particles from the waste water.”
As part of her award, Lalita is receiving support from Google to develop her project. It is difficult to predict if her invention will reach actual mass production, following in the footsteps of other inspiring young Indian talent such as Mansukhbhai R. Prajapati, who developed a refrigerator that cools without electricity.
Read more articles from Sofia Adamson.
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