Knowing that nearly a billion people in the world don’t have access to safe drinking water, a group of Chilean scientists invented an economic process of water purification that has the potential to revolutionize water filtration systems.
The truly innovative part of the Chilean design is its efficiency: the simple cylindrical purifier consumes the equivalent of a 100-watt light bulb to filter about 10 gallons (35 liters) of water in five minutes, making it ideal for purifying large amounts of water for large numbers of people.
The Plasma Water Sanitation System (PWSS) was jointly developed by the Center for Advanced Innovation (Centro de Innovación Avanzada) in Viña del Mar and Un Techo para Chile’s Innovation Center. It was unveiled in Santiago at a ceremony attended by German scientist Rainer Meinke, from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.
The PWSS is based on plasma technology that purifies water by pushing it through a pressurized chamber, effectively atomizing the water molecules. The water is then exposed to an electric field that converts the particles into plasma, which eliminates 100 percent of bacteria and microbes and transforms the water into clean, potable water.
It is hoped that technology like this could help to save the lives of nearly 6,000 people around the globe who die every day from diseases related to a lack of potable water. Despite the advanced technology, the PWSS only costs about US$200 to produce.
The Director of the Center for Advanced Innovation, Alfredo Zolezzi, said, “Now, we can connect science and technology with poverty and transform this vision into reality.”
The project was also presented in Washington, D.C. in an exposition at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which supported the project through a grant to Un Techo para Chile. In 2009, the IDB had publicly congratulated Chile for its first-class sanitation system, which provides clean drinking water to 99.8 percent of the population.
Zolezzi also thanked the Advanced Magnet Lab in the United States for its support.