Reservoir Studio and the Electroactive Materials Characterization Lab (EMCLab) co-sponsored an undergraduate engineering team in the spring 2017 Design Challenge. The Learning Factory coordinates the Design Challenge event every semester.
Reservoir Studio and EMCLab challenged a team of five undergraduate engineering students to make an inexpensive DIY kit with all materials necessary to produce inexpensive colloidal silver and colloidal copper for use in point of use ceramic water filters. The DIY colloids produced in the kit had to be as effective as the commercial colloidal silver used conventionally in point of use ceramic water filters. The team was also charged with creating an easy to read instructional manual to accompany the DIY kits. The full description of the challenge for this project is below.
Water-related diseases cause millions of deaths annually around the world. Lack of safe drinking water, pervasive disease, and substandard sanitation are known as the global water crisis. Among the most active means of responding to the global water crisis include the production and distribution of point-of-use ceramic water filters manufactured from local materials in communities in need. Since the late 1990s, thousands of the filters have been produced, distributed, and used in the developing and third world. These point-of-use ceramic water filters are designed as low-cost, first responses and temporary solutions to provide clean water in remote areas after natural disasters. The active component in these filters is colloidal silver that attracts and renders inert microbes and other waterborne diseases with 99.9% effectiveness. The colloidal silver is the most expensive element in the filters and is not readily available in communities of need. Reducing the cost to produce the filters would enable wider distribution and improve the health of millions of people annually. In order to make the process more affordable, one solution is to develop DIY fabrication approaches to produce colloidal silver inexpensively from repurposed and local sources. Other materials such as copper, which is abundantly available, inexpensive, and potentially effective against waterborne diseases, could also be produced, which would help millions more people annually through this low-cost approach to filtering clean water. In short, we need to develop an inexpensive DIY approach to producing colloidal silver and colloidal copper to expand the range of affordable responses to the global water crisis. The goals for this project are: (1) research and design DIY approaches to producing colloidal silver and colloidal copper from scrap or inexpensive sources; (2) test the effectiveness of the DIY materials in ceramic water filters in comparison to conventionally-produced water filters enhanced with colloidal silver; and, (3) design an image-based instruction book to accompany the DIY silver and copper kits for end users regardless of culture or language (think step-by-step instruction books used to assemble IKEA furniture or LEGO building sets).