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New Solar-powered water purification system will help millions of people in African communities

Research being led by Teesside University could improve access to clean, safe drinking water for millions of people in the developing world.

Water pollution is one of the main challenges ahead of our developing world, but in Africa, the challenge of accessing clean water, has been ongoing. This is due to pollutants from industrial waste, microplastics, sewage, fertilisers and pesticides being disposed into their water systems.

Over in Teeside University’s School of Health & Life Sciences, Academic Researchers are working with counterparts in South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on an innovative solution – a Solar-powered water purification system.

The new system provides a portable and affordable way of both purifying and removing pollutants from water, which will be particularly beneficial in isolated and rural communities in the DRC.

Access to clean water and sanitation for all is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, but critical action is needed to achieve this. The World Meteorological Association has reported that, by 2050, up to 5 billion people may have inadequate access to clean water. Climate change and population growth are increasing these issues exponentially. WHO predict that by as early as 2025, half of the worlds population will be living in water-stressed areas.

The primary cause of water shortages in nations with limited resources is either a scarcity of water or pollution of water sources. This compounded by poverty and lack of investment in water infrastructure has contributed to the problem. The DRC is one of Africa’s most water-rich countries, yet millions of people lack access to clean water, consuming instead from polluted water sources, which impacts their health and living conditions.

The Project

The project, which has received a £300,000 Royal Society’s International Science Partnerships Fund (ISPF) – International Collaboration Award, proposes using tiny particles, known as nanomaterials and nanotechnology processes, coupled with solar energy to overcome these problems.

It will be led by Dr Ojodomo Achadu from Teesside University, an expert in nanomaterials and nanotechnology, together with Dr Muthumuni Managa from the University of South Africa (UNISA), and Professor Christian Nkanga from the Universite de Kinshasa in DRC.

Dr Achadu said: “Receiving this grant award from the Royal Society is an incredible honour which reflects the excellent academic track records and research leadership of the team. We are particularly delighted to receive funding for this project and help support the health and wellbeing of communities across the world with expertise from Teesside University.”

The project proposes using multi-functional and efficient (nano)materials which can remove chemicals and pathogens from water in a single step and can be operated in both households and agricultural fields. The technology will also include a follow-up dip test for pathogens in water to ensure it is of a consistent quality and safe for use.

Professor Nkanga said: “Together with my colleagues, we are excited to bring nanoscience to Congolese society through this pioneering nanotechnology project at the Université de Kinshasa. This initiative marks a pivotal moment in leveraging advanced science for real-world impact.”

Link to Research: https://www.tees.ac.uk/sections/research/

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