Deepikia Kurup, a teenager from Nashua, New Hampshire, is an inspiration to everyone concerned about global access to clean drinking water. She won the National Geographic Explorer Award in 2015, after developing a new way to purify contaminated water.
This young woman is a great example of the potential of today’s youth to solve some of the biggest problems facing humanity. In the video above, Deepikia explains her new water purification system, which uses sunlight and low-cost materials to clean drinking water.
Clean Drinking Water Crisis
When traveling to visit her family in India, Deepikia noticed that many children were filling up bottles with dirty water from streams along the road. In addition, people would line up for hours outside her grandparents’ house to fill up water containers with water from the tap.
According to World Health Organisation, 660 million people in world lack access to drinking water sources. This is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 in developing countries. UNICEF estimates that 3000 children die every day from water-related diseases. (source)
Witnessing these social injustices inspired Deepikia to research the extent of the global water crisis. Consequently, she discovered that one-ninth of the world does not have access to clean drinkable water. This inspired her to create a process that will clean drinking water more effectively than Solar Disinfection. This method, also called SORDIS, relies solely on the sun and is typically used in developing countries, such as India.
Inspiration Turns Into Innovation
Deepikia started developing her water purification system when she was just 14 years old. She wanted the system to use sunlight and inexpensive components so it would be accessible to people who need it most. Furthermore, she wanted her filtration system to overcome the disadvantages of the SORDIS method. When using SORDIS, water must be exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays for 6 to 8 hours. During this time, the sun’s rays destroy harmful pathogens and contaminants. Hence, the process takes up to 2 days, especially when it is cloudy.
To address this issue, Deepikia used cement, sand, titanium dioxide and silver nitrate to create a filter that speeds up the SORDIS process. The titanium dioxide within the filter works as a photocatalyst, using sunlight to create reactive oxidants. These oxidants can filter bacteria and organic contamination out of drinking water much faster than the sun alone. Because it is made out of cement, the filter can be formed into many different shapes. Thus, it can coat the insides of large water tanks. Additionally, it can be molded into a cork for medium size water containers or a rod to be placed inside a water bottle.
In the future, Deepikia plans to deploy her system in places where clean drinking water is scarce. She hopes that her innovation will contribute to solving the global water crisis.
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