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S African scientist unveils cheap "tea bag" water filter

08-18-2010 08:56 BJT

JOHANNESBURG, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) -- Amid concerns about the quality and quantity of South African water, a South African university has unveiled a method to help overcome risks.

The University of Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, said on Monday that a filter the size of a tea bag that cleans highly polluted water and costs about three cents a liter to use could be available to the South African public in about six weeks.

Last week, South Africa's water affairs minister Buyelwa Sonjica told conference in Bloemfontein that the country was experiencing problems with the quality and quantity of water. On Monday professor Eugene Cloete, the dean of the faculty of science at the University of Stellenbosch, said in a statement to the South African Press Association (SAPA) about the filter.

"The water is cleaned right then and there when you drink from the bottle," he said. The filter could help meet the needs of South Africans who lived in remote areas or whose regular water supply was not being treated to potable standards, he said. "The lack of availability of adequate, safe and affordable water supplies impacts severely on vulnerable groups such as the poor, the elderly, HIV/Aids patients and children," he said.

"More than 90 percent of all cholera cases are reported in Africa, and 300 million people on our continent do not have access to safe drinking water. Clearly, something has to be done about this," he said. Marelize Botes, a researcher on the project, told SAPA the filters were disposable, portable, easy to use and environmentally friendly.

Cloete, a former executive vice-president of the International Water Association and a member of Coca-Cola's world-wide panel of water experts, worked on the invention with researchers from the university's department of microbiology and other scientists from the university for 18 months and patented it in January.

"The inside of the outer material is coated with a thin film of biocides, encapsulated within tiny nanofibers, which kills all disease-causing microbes," said Cloete. "The bag is filled with active carbon granules that remove all harmful chemicals." The filters were tested in a very polluted river in Stellenbosch where they proved to clean one liter of the most polluted water to the point where it was 100 percent safe to drink.

Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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