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Nanoparticle Tech Could Bring Clean Water to Rural Poor

• Denise Chow via via

A water purification system that uses nanotechnology to remove bacteria, viruses and other contaminants may be able to deliver clean drinking water to rural communities for less than $3 a year per family, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai, India, developed a purification device that filters water through a specially crafted mixture of nanoparticles to remove harmful contaminants. Their study was published today (May 6) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The device, which is currently being tested in communities in India, could offer an affordable way to provide small families with at least 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of safe drinking water per day, said study co-author Thalappil Pradeep, a professor in the department of chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. [10 of the Most Polluted Places on Earth]

Silver ions to the rescue

To develop this system, scientists first had to figure out how to remove impurities from water retrieved from wells and other local sources.

"We had to look at several problems with water: One is microbes. Another is bacteria and viruses, and then chemicals, like arsenic, lead and pesticides," Pradeep told LiveScience.

The researchers designed a water filter composed of a grainy mix of nanoparticles — so-called composite nanomaterials — that release a continuous stream of silver ions to destroy microbes in the water.

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