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PureMadi team engaging young visitor at the 2017 ACCelerate Creativity and Innovation Festival Photo: Matthew Slaats

PureMadi has been created by an interdisciplinary collaboration of students and faculty at the University of Virginia. In partnership with the University of Venda in Thohoyandou, South Africa; Rotary International; and developing-world communities in Limpopo Province, South Africa, PureMadi is working to provide sustainable solutions to global water problems.

Their first project is the development of a sustainable, ceramic water filter facility in South Africa. Ceramic filters are a point-of-use (e.g, household-level) water treatment technology. Ceramic filters can be produced with local materials (clay, sawdust, and water) and local labor. The materials are mixed in appropriate proportions, pressed into the shape of a filter pot, and fired in a kiln at 900 ˚C. Upon firing, the clay forms a ceramic and the sawdust combusts, leaving a porous ceramic matrix for filtration. In addition the filters are treated with a dilute solution of silver nanoparticles. The nanoparticles lodge in the pore space of the ceramic matrix and act as a highly effective disinfectant for waterborne pathogens like Vibrio cholerae and pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli. Untreated water can then be passed through the filter and collected in a lower reservoir with a spigot to obtain purified water.

This technology has been demonstrated to be highly effective at purifying water, and the filters are socially acceptable to developing-world communities. They have shown that the filters significantly improve the health outcomes of human populations using the filters relative to groups who only drink untreated water.

A filter facility can become a sustainable business venture that provides economic stimulus to the local community. Their goal is to create a blueprint for a successful facility, including its architecture, efficiency of water and energy use, technological performance of the filter itself, and an effective and sustainable business model. The research has also spun out a for-profit company, MadiDrop, for widespread distribution of the technical innovation in a different form. The all-natural M-Drop disinfects household drinking water without chemically altering the taste and smell. This small tablet destroys waterborne pathogens and protects families against illness and disease.