Award-winning water treatment system

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Chemical engineering students at the University of Arkansas have designed a system that can provide 3,000 gallons of clean drinking water per day without the use of electricity. Their design, which could be used to treat water in remote or disaster-stricken areas, recently won the Intel Innovation Award at WERC’s Environmental Design Contest.

WERC is a consortium of agencies, companies and academic partners that try to address environmental education and technology development needs, and is based at New Mexico State University. WERC conducts an annual contest among student teams that design solutions for environmental problems.

The Arkansas student team includes Honours College students Nathan Bearden, Allen Busick, Howard Heffington, Jennifer Herrera, Tristan Hudson, Ryan Lee and Tim Meyer and is led by chemical engineering professor and Honours College faculty member Roy Penney. The students designed and assembled a system that includes a sand filter which can be submersed in a water source; a treadle pump, which is operated by two people and pumps the water through the system; a carbon filter to provide pre-treatment filtration; and a disinfection system that kills bacteria using either bleach or ultraviolet light.

Their system uses only human power and solar energy to produce enough clean water for a small community in a matter of hours. The total cost of the water treatment system ranges from USD550 to USD1,500, depending on the disinfection method used. One of the students, Jennifer Herrera, is working with the College of Engineering and Honours College to transport the system to a community in the developing world that could benefit from it.

“This is the first time a team from the University of Arkansas has won the Intel award,” said Penney. “The judges consider the entire project and they chose the most practical one. The treadle pump design was a very significant technical achievement, and the students demonstrated that it can be built and used by unskilled labour.”

Customer comments

  1. By rajender negi on

    Many many Congratulations Nathan Bearden, Allen Busick, Howard Heffington, Jennifer Herrera, Tristan Hudson, Ryan Lee and Tim Meyer and chemical engineering professor and Honours College faculty member Roy Penney University of Arkansas for ur such a big innovation.......i am Rajender Negi from India a Post graduate in Environmental Science..now working in a Pharmaceutical industry in Effluent Treatment Unit. this could be a wonderful project for energy saving prospects. Congrates u all again.....!!!