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Solaqua draws on the sun to provide safe drinking water


June 2, 2009

The Solaqua uses UV and infrared rays from the sun to kill pathogens in contaminated water

The Solaqua uses UV and infrared rays from the sun to kill pathogens in contaminated water

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June 3, 2009 While clean, safe water is in short supply in much of Africa, there's no shortage of sun. The Solaqua is a nifty portable device that uses the sun's rays to purify contaminated water. Through innovative use of readily available materials, it carries, disinfects and stores water, providing a safe, environmentally sustainable source of water for rural communities.

Millions of deaths each year from water-borne and water-related pathogens could be prevented with clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

Diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and malaria are rife in sub-Saharan Africa where two in five people lack safe water for drinking and washing hands, food and utensils. Diarrhoea is the leading cause of death in babies, who are 520 times more likely to die than babies in Europe.

Access to uncontaminated water would help to reduce the incidence of diseases. Trachoma, for instance, which causes blindness, results from poor sanitation and a lack of water to wash hands and faces regularly. There are about 6 million new cases of preventable trachoma each year in Africa.

Solar water disinfection (SODIS) is a simple, low-cost way of improving the microbiological quality of water: heat and UV radiation work together to inactivate the pathogens that cause disease.

SODIS is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a water-disinfection method for household use. While boiling water to reduce contamination requires fuel and fire, SODIS technology requires only the sun and empty PET bottles which are readily available. Studies have shown that the incidence of diarrhoea among SODIS users was reduced by 20 to 50 per cent.

The Solaqua is a SODIS device that can provide up to 10 liters of clean water at a time, the average amount of water used daily in rural Africa.

Raw or contaminated water is poured into the center of the device, where it passes through a sari cloth filter, an established method of reducing pathogens. It is then funneled into five angled bottles which are unhinged from the central unit and laid on the ground to allow maximum exposure to the sun. Each bottle has a black surface on the back that absorbs heat and reflective inner surfaces that reflect UV rays within the water, both of which help to purify the contaminated water more quickly. The bottles have screw-cap lids to help prevent re-contamination.

As water often has to be carried long distances, the Solaqua is ergonomically designed. In addition to the central handle, it features a double-sided handle so that it's easy enough for two children to carry. A hollow in the center of the five bottles also enables it to be carried in the traditional way on the head.

The Solaqua uses ABS plastic where extra strength is needed, for example, in the handle and bracket design, and PET plastic which enables the five bottles to gain maximum efficiency in UV exposure.

The Solaqua has been designed by Jason Lam, a student at the University of New South Wales in Australia. It was runner-up in the student division of the 2009 Australian Design Award - James Dyson Award announced on May 29.

Karen Sprey


Hi there, We’ve noticed this product concept from the 2009 Australian Design Award-James Dyson Award has caught your interest and we wanted to say thank you for the write up. Just to give you a quick update, this project is now one of thirteen Australian product concepts that have made it through into the global James Dyson Award- a competition that spans 21 countries to identify the best young inventors from around the world. From now through till the 20th July 2009, your readers can vote for this project or another entry in the James Dyson Award on FYI- From each country, the project which receives the most votes will get an automatic entry as a shortlist and the chance to win the grand prize of £10,000 for themselves and another £10,000 for their university!

Shanon Pirchmoser

The SODIS method in its present form suffers from many drawbacks. I refined it,

Details of my system can be found in my Blog:

Also in Gizmag under GOOD THINKING Students design electronic device that indicates safe drinking water, dated December 24,2010 details of my system were presented under the comments(Without Picture).

Sari Filtering is practiced in Bangladesh. There were several reports in BBC, nature etc., on this. But in water purification solar thermal and UV are essential. 50 degrees Celsius is critical and fatal to kill the germs.

Those who promote SODIS may be wise to go through my INNOVATIVE SOLAR DISINFECTION SYSTEM and adopt it as it is cost effective.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
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