Paper produced at WMU used in 'drinkable book' could provide clean water for millions

Western Michigan University has played a key role in the production of a paper technology designed to provide clean drinking water for those whose water is polluted and unfit to drink.  
The paper has been successfully produced in Western Michigan University's pilot plant this fall and may be on its way to becoming an international tool to prevent disease, the university reports.

Safe Water Books are both a water filter and an instruction manual for why clean water is important. Each page of the book is a water filter capable of killing the viruses and bacteria in the water that passes through it. The paper will be packaged in Safe Water Books with instructions in the local language of the country in which it is being used.

The books could provide clean and safe water to the 1.8 billion people worldwide whose water is contaminated by fecal coliform bacteria and other diseases. A page from a Safe Water Book can clean up to 100 liters of water at a cost of less than a penny per day with no heat or electricity or need for a pump. The filters are recyclable and biodegradable. Each filter "page," can last for weeks and each "book" could last for about a year.

The technology is based on centuries-old knowledge about the antimicrobial properties of silver, and it involves the production of paper with silver nanoparticles embedded in it. 

Folia Filters have been tested in South Africa, Ghana, Honduras, Bangladesh, Kenya, and Haiti, showing repeatedly that they can clean even the most polluted water and eliminate over 99 percent of bacteria.

Folio Water of Pittsburgh came to WMU this fall to find out if it the technology--developed in research labs at McGill and Carnegie Mellon universities and the University of Virginia--could be scaled so the books could go into major production. 

"By utilizing our pilot paper machine, Folia was able to combine several steps in the production process into one continuous process," WMU Pilot Plants Manager Lon E. Pschigoda says. The trial run in WMU's paper pilot plants was successful, and the paper rolls produced are being converted into books and being readied for distribution.

"Those rolls are already sold, and we'll be shipping books as soon as they are converted," says Dr. Cantwell Carson, Folia's chief technical officer, who attended the WMU trials. "The WMU paper plant has played a critical role in the development of our company and our technology."

To see a video on the book in action, visit here.

Source: Cheryl Roland, Western Michigan University
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