Brunch

The ‘Poseidon’ water filtration project

  • Eradicating the polluted water crisis in SL

For all the technological progress the world has ushered in, access to clean drinking water still remains a problem affecting developing nations, and Sri Lanka especially faces a huge problem with regard to water contamination.

The Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (Slintec), in collaboration with Monash University Malaysia and Newcastle University in England, has developed “Poseidon”, a portable filtration device that can be fitted to a water bottle. This allows people who are deprived of access to clean water to filter what they drink.

Statistics bear testament to the dire need to address this issue. A 2019 research from Our World in Data reveals that 2.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. This amounts to a staggering 29% of the world population. In addition to that, 1.2 million people die annually from the consumption of unsafe drinking water, while 6% of deaths in low-income countries have been attributed to unreliable water sources. The problem is further exacerbated in the event of natural disasters when people who do not have access to clean water face long waits for reinforcements to be delivered. Floods or earthquakes go on to cripple accessibility by causing roads to be closed to affected areas.

Poseidon is currently being tested in Sri Lanka under the leadership of SLIENTEC Head of Technology Transfer Dr. Rangika De Silva, who is a Monash University Malaysia alumni. Brunch spoke to Dr. De Silva to learn more about Poseidon.

Dr. De Silva told us that the inspiration behind this project is to provide clean drinking water all around the world. Back when he was studying at Monash University, he did a lot of work with nanotechnology. He wanted to use his learning to help Sri Lanka develop further, and after conversing with many parties addressing the issue of water quality in Sri Lanka, this project was brought to fruition in our country.

“We are testing this in the polluted waters of Sri Lanka, as the country is home to factories and industries which might emit heavy metals to the environment,” he explained, adding that their focus is currently on Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

There are many different types of water filters in the market. However, what sets Poseidon apart from its competitors is its small and compact design, produced at a fraction of the cost of other similar water filters. Its design ensures it can be easily fitted into any drinking water bottle, and it can be distributed to the rural areas in case of a disaster where there is no access to the affected people.

“We are making this as cheap, light, and as easy as possible to be distributed to the public. None of the existing water filters in the market focuses on disaster management,” he commented, speaking on the topic of the cost-effective system. Informing us about their long-term aim, we were told that they want to help people have clean water for the next two to three days (post-disaster) until they get help.

Success rate

The success of any water filter is partly measured through the flow and rejection rates. Cubic metres of water that still contain foreign particles will not be allowed to flow.

As one unit of Poseidon can filter 1,000 litres of water, Dr. De Silva explained that those involved in relief support could opt to deliver a water filter instead of bottled water. The disaster victim would only have to fit the portable filtration device onto their existing water bottles. Built from nanofiber, which is sourced from an electrospinning process, and aided by membranes that form tissues, Poseidon ensures every step of the water filtration process is adhered to strictly. The filters are reinforced with different types of nanomaterials as well to bring high thermal, mechanical, and antibacterial performance to the water filters.

He added that its quality was on par with others in the market, as Poseidon successfully removes bacteria, BPA, and heavy metals, in addition to passing industry and World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

How it works

Polluted groundwater must undergo several filtering processes before it is safe for consumption. Microparticles, nanoparticles, heavy metals, bacteria, sand, and mud are amongst the things that have to be filtered out. Other things that need to be filtered are odour, chlorine, and BPA. That’s why you see activated carbon in most water filters. Activated carbon is one of the cheapest ways to remove water odour and taste.

The Poseidon water filtration system is capable of doing all of this and is still marketed at a cheap price with hopes of effectively eradicating the problem of unsafe water in Sri Lanka. Even now, in the year 2021, there are still villages in Sri Lanka that do not have any access to water, much less clean water. SLINTEC carries out the programme in hopes of ridding the country of this crisis.