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Solar powered water purification to help African communities

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


Academics from the University’s School of Health & Life Sciences are working with counterparts in South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on an innovative solar powered water purification system.


The new system will provide 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 five billion people may have inadequate access to clean water.


The primary cause of water shortages in nations with limited resources is either a scarcity of water or pollution of water sources. This is compounded by poverty or a lack of investment in water infrastructure.


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, 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.


The project proposes using multifunctional 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. 


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.’


Dr Managa said, ‘A sustainable future entails ensuring that everyone has access to safe drinking water. 


‘It is such an honour to receive the ISPF international collaboration award grant as it embodies the visions of the Institute for Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability (iNanoWS) of UNISA and would serve as a beacon of hope for communities grappling with water scarcity. 


‘The funding will foster multidisciplinary and cross-cutting partnerships, allowing us to strengthen our profile as research leaders.’


Professor Nkanga said, ‘This ISPF collaboration award is not only a recognition of our collective dedication but also a crucial step towards making significant inroads in providing safe, clean drinking water to those in dire need. 


‘As a passionate advocate for science as a tool for socio-economic development, I am profoundly honoured and grateful.


‘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.


‘Designed with user friendliness at its core, this project will have a major impact, empowering communities to access the clean water they need to dramatically improve their living conditions and prosper and thrive.’


Dr Ojodomo Achadu, from Teesside University, who is leading research on a new solar powered water purification system.


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