How This Pastry-Like Paper Sheet Can Save Millions By Decontaminating Drinking Water
A filter paper modelling a French puff pastry can save the lives of millions of people on Earth by decontaminating dirty water.
Dubbed the mille-feuille filter, the sheet produced by Uppsala University scientists in collaboration with German virologists, is made of cellulose nanofibers. It can remove resistant viruses to improve the quality of water.
"With a filter material directly from nature, and by using simple production methods, we believe that our filter paper can become the affordable global water filtration solution and help save lives. Our goal is to develop a filter paper that can remove even the toughest viruses from water as easily as brewing coffee," lead author Albert Mihranyan, Professor of Nanotechnology at Uppsala University said in a press release.
Their team has previously made filter papers to decontaminate water, but the problem is those initially created only filter big viruses. The new mille-feuille filter paper, according to the study, is the first non-woven, wet-laid filter paper, composed of 100% native cellulose, targets even the smallest viruses, including the worst virus of them all, the "parvoviruses."
Water and sanitation is essential to recognizing and understanding of all human rights. However, providing clean, safe and accessible water has always been a problem.
Many parts of the world are still threatened from contaminated water and diseases springing from this dilemma have risen over the years, especially in developing countries.
In big cities like Jakarta, Manila and Nairobi, water has became a privilege rather than a right. According to United Nations, these cities pay 5 to 10 times more for water than those living in high-income areas in those same cities and more than consumers in London or New York.
One of the goals targeted by the UN is to ensure access to water and sanitation for all. And while there is sufficient fresh water to do this, poor handling and weak policies prevent this basic right to be achieved.
At least 1.8 billion people globally drink water that is contaminated with feces. At least eighty percent of wastewater goes directly into rivers or seas without any pollution removal. By 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water, according to the UN.
This innovation can just change the game and give improved access to clean water to many countries. The filter has pastry-like layers that come from hot pressing cellulose nanosheets from Cladophora, a green algae notorious for polluting coastal areas.
Because of its fast and enhanced mechanical performance, cellulose nanosheets have been widely used for separation of oil-in-water nanoemulsions in diverse industrial processes.
In addition to decontaminating water, the paper filter is also long-lasting and easy-to-carry to remote areas where massive outbreaks had occurred. Because filtration process can be expensive and inefficient at times, this recently developed mille-feuille filter presents an affordable and alternative solution to current filtration methods.
Teri Dankovich, of Duke University in the US, told Chemistry World that the filter paper "shows great potential for affordable water purification in remote areas."
The team is now working on the manufacturing process and ensuring quality and control protocols before the product goes all out.
The study was published in Materials Horizons.