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Student Designs Simple Water Filter, Seeks Crowdfunding

Drinking water with a filter

Jeremy Nussbaumer takes a drink from a bottle with a DrinkPure filter. (ETH Zurich)

24 July 2014. An engineering student at ETH Zurich, a science and technology university in Switzerland, designed a simple, inexpensive water filter to bring drinking water to developing countries that lack reliable clean water sources. Jeremy Nussbaumer developed the DrinkPure filter while an undergraduate at ETH Zurich, and now has a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to finance production and distribution of the device.

Some 768 million people worldwide live in areas lacking treatment systems that provide a reliable source of clean drinking water, according to World Health Organization. Of that number, says the advocacy group, 345 million live in Africa. also cites WHO data showing some 3.4 million people die each year from a disease linked to water contamination, and nearly all of those (99%) live in developing regions.

Nussbaumer developed DrinkPure in the university’s Functional Materials Laboratory, which conducts research on polymer membranes used in a variety of consumer, industrial, and health care products. These membranes use nanotechnology to create ultra-fine particles that act as a template for filters meeting precise specifications. The technology is patented and being commercialized by Novamem LLC, a spin-off company from ETH Zurich and partner with Nussbaumer in developing DrinkPure.

The engineered membrane is the third of three filtration stages in the DrinkPure device. The first stage captures larger particles, such as sand and dirt, while a second filter of activated charcoal removes chemical contaminants and odors. The polymer membrane in DrinkPure then filters out bacteria, producing potable drinking water.

The filter weighs under 100 grams (3.5 ounces) and screws on the top of a 1 liter plastic bottle. The user fills up the bottle with water from any source, then squeezes the bottle to force the water through the filter, for drinking. Nussbaumer says the user can squeeze 1 liter of water through the filter in a minute, and one filter can last an entire year.

Nussbaumer, who delayed the start of his graduate studies to develop the device, aims to have the first DrinkPure filters ready for field testing in Africa in January 2015. To finance initial production and distribution for testing, Nussbaumer started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo that aims to raise $40,000. As of 24 July, the campaign raised more than $24,000, which ends on 26 August.

While the DrinkPure filter was originally designed for developing regions, Nussbaumer says it would also be helpful for hikers and travelers, who now buy expensive bottled water. “Quickly screw it on a bottle and you can take a drink from any pond or river without a second thought,” says Nussbaumer in a university statement. “I’m actually not a serious walker myself, but if I were to go I would be sure to take the filter along.”

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