Could a simple "tea bag" of carbon and antimacrobial fibers that costs just pennies be the solution for quickly filtered drinking water on the go? Scientists from Stellenbosch University in South Africa hope they've found the solution to drinking water problems in rural African communities. Lacking water sanitation services, the communities can turn to a simple water bottle that uses cheap, removable sachets to clean their drinking water. And comparing the clean water solution to tea bags isn't far off -- they're using the same material that go into producing bags of rooibos tea. But what sets these bags apart are the fibers inside. Lining the interior of the bags are ultra-thin nanoscale fibers that filter out contaminants, and held within the bag are active carbon granules that kill bacteria. Science and Development Network reports that the excitement behind the idea comes from the fact that all the components used are inexpensive. One sachet can clean a liter of very polluted water; once used, it can be quickly replaced and easily disposed of.
"The nanofibres will disintegrate in liquids after a few days and will have no environmental impact. The raw materials of the tea-bag filter are not toxic to humans," she added. Each bag should cost around three South African cents (just under half a US cent). Anybody can use it anywhere; it's affordable, clean and environmentally friendly," said Jo Burgess, manager of South Africa's Water Research Commission.
TapGuard uses a similar method, with just a simple tea bag of carbon going into the rubber top that fits over a plastic water container like a CamelBak. However, the technology for the TapGuard system doesn't seem quite as high end as this one.
However, the issue of rural African communities that lack water sanitation -- the supposed target audience for this technology -- is in how they'll gain access to enough of these bags. If they need to replace each bag in each bottle every couple days (or every liter, as the case may be) they they could quickly run out of supplies and have a pile of useless bottles until more bags can be transported in. Durability of materials is one of the main factors in whether or not a new technology will work in rural areas.
Additionally, this isn't a silver bullet by any means. This will supply drinking water, but it isn't a solution for communities as a whole -- members of a community will still have to worry about transporting enough water each day for cooking and cleaning needs.
Still, the bottle -- if it gains the necessary approvals -- is supposed to make it onto the market by the end of this year. Whether or not it is a viable solution will take a little more testing.
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