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Poly students develop S$11 water filter

SINGAPORE — Singapore Polytechnic (SP) students have developed a water filtration cartridge that costs a mere S$11 and can last up to two years. Their work was under the guidance of the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI) of the Nanyang Technological University.

SP’s Sandy Loh demonstrating how to use the Gravity filter.

SP’s Sandy Loh demonstrating how to use the Gravity filter.

SINGAPORE — Singapore Polytechnic (SP) students have developed a water filtration cartridge that costs a mere S$11 and can last up to two years. Their work was under the guidance of the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI) of the Nanyang Technological University.

Led by Dr Adrian Yeo, Research Fellow at NEWRI, students Sandy Loh and Koh Yong Xiang, both from SP’s Diploma in Environmental Management and Water Technology programme, created the Gravity filter to help with the shortage of clean drinking water in rural areas in Vietnam.

“(We) have some work we’re doing in Vietnam, and we wanted to help the locals in a more organised way,” said Dr Yeo. “We built a large water treatment plant for places that still have access to the piping system, but further away, it becomes less feasible to build a plant.”

“We wanted a sustainable method of providing clean water to people who live quite far apart.”

The Gravity filter consists of hollow-fibre membranes of polysulfone that have a pore size of 0.1 microns, which takes care of almost all bacteria and micro-organisms, said Dr Yeo. No energy input is needed — elevating the container of pre-filtered water to 1m is enough to propel it through the filter. The flow rate of the discharged clean water is 200-600 millilitres per minute, said Ms Loh.

The Gravity filter is cheap because it uses currently available technology, said the scientists. “We designed (this filter) around existing products, because if you start from scratch, you don’t benefit from the economies of scale,” said Dr Yeo. “Can we make our own membranes? Sure! But what we want is some guy who’s making hundreds or even thousands of them, and then the cost goes down and it becomes usable.”

The filter is not commercially available yet, but 50 pieces will be deployed in a pilot test in Vietnam next month.

Unlike the LifeStraw, a personal water filtration device that can be drunk through directly, the Gravity filter is intended to be installed indoors in developing nations to provide clean water for households, said Ms Loh. “It’s mainly for domestic use, instead of recreational use,” added Mr Koh.

One of the benefits of the Gravity filter is its simplicity of use. “Many people like to develop high-tech products, but these can turn out rather intimidating,” said Dr Yeo. “With simpler products, people easily understand how they work and they feel more comfortable using them.”

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