Date of Graduation

5-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

Chemical Engineering

Advisor

Hestekin, Christa N

Abstract

The United Nations estimates that water-borne illness accounts for 80% of deaths in developing nations and that nearly 1 in 6 do not have access to clean water (1). However, despite the ability to produce water in the developed world from complex streams such as wastewater or seawater, challenges remain in providing this basic resource in the developing world. Too often the approach has been to apply a high-tech solution, which requires significant technical expertise to run and significant financial resources to repair. Furthermore, as every developing nation faces different challenges, a new solution must be provided for each situation. The objective of this project was to design a water purification system that can be constructed from easily available materials, common to the particular country, and is capable of the complete water purification process. The designed system consisted of a treadle pump (built from wood or bamboo) to pull the water from its source, a filter (made of readily available materials such as sand) to remove contaminants and improve palatability of water, an electrolysis system to allow chlorination from salt water (using locally sourced salt), and a car battery (which could be sourced from a scrapped car) that could be charged by pedaling a mountain bike connected to a DC motor (which could be obtained from a scrapped scooter). In addition, a set of instructions was developed that can be interpreted with minimal text. In Phase I, a working model and the schematics of the system were developed and tested. In Phase II, the schematics will be taken to a developing nation, India, and a water purification system will be built and evaluated on site. The schematics will be modified according to the ability of locals to understand and construct the system and schematics will be developed for other developing nations with different material resources. Depending on the success of the project, additional funding will be requested to distribute these instructions to as many developing nations as possible. The Phase I research team, Team WaterHOGs, sought to design a simple water purification process that would clean water from alternate sources. One innovation of this system was the novel combination of previously demonstrated technologies into one system that can take water from untreated non-potable water to drinking water. Another unique innovation was the development of a set of instructions that could be used anywhere in the world with locally sourced materials and with minimal use of text. Due to the nature of this technology, the water source must be freshwater (i.e. no ability to turn seawater into drinking water) and chemical contaminants (i.e. PCBs, heavy metals) will not be removed. A higher tech approach would be able to handle seawater (i.e. reverse osmosis system or solar distillation), but at the cost of higher material and energy costs. Since most of the developing nations are dealing with water contaminated with fecal matter, the technology is focused on eliminating microbial contaminants (2). In addition, low technology solutions often provide a longer lasting and less waste-producing solution (3).

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