Can bacteria-killing filter paper packaged in the form of a convenient book help people around the globe gain access to clean drinking water?
That’s the hope of Theresa Dankovich, postdoctoral research associate in the civil and environmental engineering department of Carnegie Mellon University, who has developed “The Drinkable Book.”
In the works since 2008 while Dankovich was a doctoral student at McGill University in Montreal, the book generated buzz and national and international publicity at the American Chemical Society meeting in Boston last week.
The first page makes the mission clear: “The water in your village may contain deadly diseases but each page of this book is a paper water filter that will make it safe to drink.”
According to the nonprofit water.org, 840,000 people die each year of water-related disease, and one in nine people lack access to safe water. The filter is designed to eliminate waterborne bacteria; it killed 99.9999 percent in lab tests.
In the prototype, each page has two filters, separated by perforations. The top has a message in English; the bottom the same message in the local language. Users can tear off a filter, place it in a holder above a clean container and then pour water into the filter. The optimum holder design for effective and easy use is still being developed by University of Cincinnati design graduate Luke Hydrick, now with Continuum, a design consultancy.
Each page can filter up to 26 gallons. Dankovich figures about 2,000 pages — each with two filters — have been made so far. The challenge is finding ways to bring production up to scale. The hope is that ultimately each filter could be manufactured for 10 cents or less.
“Poverty just often reduces people’s ability to buy basic things. Water purification sometimes can be a luxury for people, which sounds horrible, but that’s just how it is,” she said.