Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Sustainability of the Filtrón for Microbial Disinfection

EPA Grant Number: SU832500
Title: Sustainability of the Filtrón for Microbial Disinfection
Investigators: Summers, R. Scott , Bielefeldt, Angela
Current Investigators: Summers, R. Scott , Bielefeldt, Angela , Cornejo-Warner, Pablo , Shah, Jay
Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through August 31, 2006
Project Amount: $9,992
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


A significant portion, ~20%, of the world's population lives without access to safe water. Point of use (POU) devices for disinfection have been under-utilized as a tool to provide access to safe water. One such effective POU for producing potable water is the Filtrón; a ceramic filter coated with colloidal silver, which is manufactured locally in several developing countries. The production of the filters is a locally sustainable micro-enterprise and provides an income source. While filter production requires some technical expertise and implementation requires some education, they are relatively inexpensive and do not require massive infrastructure, which is essential in that they are implemented in communities that survive on little to no monetary income. While the Filtrón performance has been successfully demonstrated in the lab and in the field, its long-term performance and sustainability has not been critically evaluated, which is the objective of this study.

The effectiveness of the Filtrón is attributed to the micro-pores in the ceramic that are sized small enough to exclude microbial pathogen passage and by the colloidal silver coating which can inactivate microorganisms, as well as prevent their regrowth in the filter. The long-term effectiveness of both mechanisms will be evaluated. The first task will be to evaluate the performance of filters that have been in use for several years relative to the bacterial effectiveness of new filters. We will initially utilize filters that have been in use for 3 years in Nicaragua. Once the performance of these filters has been established, we plan to evaluate methods of regenerating the filters with diminished capacity. These methods include physical cleaning and reapplication of the colloidal silver. Our next task is the evaluation of the microbial regrowth in the used and new filters. Our last task is the evaluation of the initial silver concentration on the microbial effectiveness. Different amounts of colloidal silver will be coated onto new filters and the impact on microbial effectiveness evaluated.

The Filtrón work will be introduced to undergraduate students starting at the Freshman level as part of the Department Level Reform in progress to introduce an Engineering for Developing Communities (EDC) emphasis in the BS in Civil Engineering (CVEN) and Environmental Engineering (EVEN). The EDC program is already active at the MS level in environmental engineering. This includes: freshman projects, demonstration to junior Water and Wastewater Treatment students, junior-level Water Quality Laboratory team project, discussion in graduate Environmental Health and Developing Communities, use in outreach activities to K-12 students, and continued research with undergraduates.

Supplemental Keywords:

drinking water, pathogenic microorganisms, disinfection, filtration, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Environmental Chemistry, Drinking Water, Environmental Engineering, alternative disinfection methods, pathogens, sustainable development, ceramic filters, filtration, disinfection of waters, microbial risk management, point of use, drinking water treatment

Progress and Final Reports:
Final Report