Researchers: Margaret Lambert, Chloe Rento, Kelly McClain, J.C. Panagides, Rupa Nallamothu, Helena Gallagher, and Elizabeth Watkins
PureMadi has been created by an interdisciplinary collaboration of students and faculty at the University of Virginia. In partnership with the University of Venda in Thohoyandou, South Africa; Rotary International; and developing-world communities in Limpopo Province, South Africa, PureMadi is working to provide sustainable solutions to global water problems.
Our first project is the development of a sustainable, ceramic water filter facility in South Africa. Ceramic filters are a point-of-use (e.g, household-level) water treatment technology. Ceramic filters can be produced with local materials (clay, sawdust, and water) and local labor. The materials are mixed in appropriate proportions, pressed into the shape of a filter pot, and fired in a kiln at 900 ˚C. Upon firing, the clay forms a ceramic and the sawdust combusts, leaving a porous ceramic matrix for filtration. In addition the filters are treated with a dilute solution of silver nanoparticles. The nanoparticles lodge in the pore space of the ceramic matrix and act as a highly effective disinfectant for waterborne pathogens like Vibrio cholerae and pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli. Untreated water can then be passed through the filter and collected in a lower reservoir with a spigot to obtain purified water.
In the field and in the laboratory, we have demonstrated that this technology is highly effective at purifying water, and the filters are socially acceptable to developing-world communities. In some of our most recent work, we have shown that the filters significantly improve the health outcomes of human populations using the filters relative to groups who only drink untreated water.
A filter facility can become a sustainable business venture that provides economic stimulus to the local community. Our goal is to create a blueprint for a successful facility, including its architecture, efficiency of water and energy use, technological performance of the filter itself, and an effective and sustainable business model.
The research has also spun out a for-profit company, MadiDrop, for widespread distribution of the technical innovation in a different form. The all-natural M-Drop disinfects household drinking water without chemically altering the taste and smell. This small tablet destroys waterborne pathogens and protects families against illness and disease.