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With the twist of a hand - people can enjoy safe drinking water

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Cut off from civilization in the wake of a disaster, survivors must contend with only contaminated water to drink - putting them at risk for typhoid or poisoning. This was especially true after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, where thousands were left without water to drink. Now - a new technique can render brackish water safe to drink, thanks to a sponge-like gel in the hand. Safe water is as quick is now quick as a flick of the wrist.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An interdisciplinary group of researchers from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States worked together to develop an inexpensive and practical method of water purification.

The new, experimental gel embedded with silver nano-particles can absorb impure water, kill bacteria within seconds and release drinkable water with just a quick squeeze.

"These cryogels not only purify the water in the sense of removing particulates -- and not only make it look good -- but they kill the pathogens," William Krantz, a visiting professor at the Singapore Membrane Technology Center at Nanyang Technological University says.

One of the contributors to the study, Krantz added "And they do it very fast."

When tested against Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis, two harmful bacterial strains commonly encountered following natural disasters, the gel passed with flying colors.

The amount of bacteria in the treated water was reduced by a factor of between 100,000 and 1 million, depending on the amount of silver nano-particles embedded in the cryogel -- after only 15 seconds in the gel.

Krantz says he'll drink to that. "In terms of the kind of contaminated water supplies that we encounter in disaster relief operations, it's way more than adequate," he says.

Just three grams of the gel material can absorb and disinfect half a liter of water with one squeeze. The concentration of silver particles falls well within the limit for safe drinking.

After use, the gel quickly returns to its original form and can be reused effectively at least 20 times.

"The combination of the cryogel with a high porosity, very good mechanical and water-absorption properties, and the capacity to disperse a fine preparation of silver nano-particles can be a very promising device to provide water purification in [case of] emergency," Dr. Daniela Maria Cirillo, head of the Emerging Bacterial Pathogens Unit at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute says.

The researchers say personal-sized gel treatments would cost less than 50 cents each and that emergency-aid workers could easily deliver them by airdrop in places where contaminated water is found.

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