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Scientists develop machine that transforms dirty water into drinkable supply

The mini mobile treatment plant developed by scientists at the university can purify hundreds of thousands of litres of water, potentially providing a solution for one billion people around the globe.

Trials are being conducted at Frenchay campus for three months, ahead of deployment in India next year for further testing then use by communities. Initial tests have shown the system is capable of transforming dirty water drawn from a pond into clean water meeting UK drinking water standards at a rate of 500 litres per hour.

Known as The Ninja, the 1.5m by 1.5m unit has the potential to quickly produce safe drinking water for decentralised communities, or those affected by humanitarian disasters. It uses an ultra-filtration system and electrochemically activated solutions that disinfectant raw water, removing biological contaminants including bacteria and viruses, as well as reducing agricultural and industrial contaminants such as nitrates, ammonia and metals.

The system is the culmination of 10 years’ work, having started life as an academic research project in a small shed on campus affectionately named Stanley by researchers. It is part of UWE Bristol’s drive to make a difference on a global level with ground-breaking research.

UWE Bristol has collaborated on the project with industrial partner Portsmouth Aqua Ltd, which designs and manufactures the treatment systems.

“Clean water should be available for everyone. Globally, at least two billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces resulting in millions of deaths, mostly in children.

The three-year, £700,000 project is a collaboration with Professor Tapan Dutta from the Bose Institute in Kolkata. It comes as India faces increasing population pressures, particularly with exponential urbanisation and industrialisation, and environmental issues. The work forms part of the India-UK Water Quality Programme, which aims to provide policymakers, regulators, business and local communities with information and solutions that will help them secure the provision of clean water, rejuvenate rivers and restore ecosystems.

Dr Bethany Fox, a Post-Doctoral Research Scientist working on the project in India, said: “We’re thrilled to be part of this prestigious international collaboration and excited to be deploying two state-of-the-art technologies that have been many years in the making at UWE Bristol. The partnership will involve the use of our UK developed technologies in India and the subsequent development of Indian inspired sensors and treatment approaches in the UK.

“It is ultimately envisaged that the outcomes from the project will provide solutions to water quality issues to local authorities, policy makers, stakeholder and local communities.

“The response from local communities in India so far to the testing has been positive – they’re really pleased we are out here making the effort to understand the quality of their water.”

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