Researchers at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU, Lithuania) are developing drinking water disinfection technology, which not only destroys microorganisms, but also provides long-term protection against wide range of them. Treated drinking water stored in the open is protected from secondary microbial contamination longer than 3 months. Used in the form of water purification tablets or liquid it is cost efficient and user-friendly way to provide clean water when there is need.
To be considered safe, a source of drinking water must be free from pathogens and high levels of harmful substances. In 2015, 663 million people – one in 10 – still drank water from unprotected sources. According to WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme 2017 report, in 41 countries a fifth of people drink water from a source that is not protected from contamination.
"In Lithuania we have an abundant supply of drinking water, its chemical and microbiological characteristics are good. However, this is not the case in many countries, particularly in the developing world. Cost-efficient drinking water purification technologies are critical for water supply companies, for bottled water industry and for individual users who have limited access to water supply, or when tap water is contaminated by microorganisms", says Dr Paulius Pavelas Danilovas, researcher at KTU Faculty of Chemical Technology.
The water purification products created at KTU can be used while travelling when there is a need of clean drinking water, or, for example, during army operations in regions where there is limited supply of clean water and for other industrial and individual purposes.
A team of researchers at KTU are developing water disinfection technology based on several different water treatment methods. This allows to achieve strong purification effect by using less than usual concentration of active ingredients. This technology not only efficiently destroys the microbes existing in the water, but the treated water is protected from secondary microbial contamination: microbes do not breed in openly kept water containers for more than several months.
One of active ingredients in the water purification process is silver, which has been used for drinking water disinfection already in ancient Rome. Long-term stability is the characteristic trait of some of the disinfectants used in the method. Therefore, the product can be stored for several years without losing its disinfecting characteristics. Used as a tablet or liquid added to the water, KTU water purification technology is extremely user-friendly.
"We've been working in the field of antimicrobial materials development for many years. Our inventions have been patented, some of them were implemented in industry. That's why we have decided to apply our knowledge and experience also in the field of water disinfection", says Dr Danilovas.
The water purification products based on KTU formula do not add any odours or tastes to the water. According to Dr Danilovas, the biggest challenge in the process of developing water disinfection technology is to keep the balance between technology being efficient in destroying microbes, and not harmful for the user.
Water purification technologies for industry do not always offer the long term protection from secondary contamination. They have been improved at KTU, and the method offered by Lithuanian researchers can be applied in products for different industries and individual users. The prototype for industry is ready for use, and the product for individual users is currently in refinement process.
According to the researchers, the price of the product will constitute only a little part of the drinking water price.
The KTU drinking water disinfection technology is patented; currently the invention is being expanded into international markets. Commercialisation of the product is facilitated by KTU National Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre – one stop shop for knowledge intensive business to contact research.