Ultra-Low-Cost Reusable Solar Disinfection Sensor

EPA Grant Number: SU839294
Title: Ultra-Low-Cost Reusable Solar Disinfection Sensor
Investigators: Lacks, Daniel J
Institution: Case Western Reserve University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , P3 Awards , P3 Challenge Area - Water


Solar disinfection, or SODIS, is a household water treatment technique proven to reduce the incidence of waterborne disease. Unfortunately, the real-world implementation of SODIS is hampered by an inability to confirm that treated water is safe to drink.


A low-cost reusable SODIS sensor would provide users with visual confirmation that their drinking water has received sufficient sunlight. The development of a reusable dye-based SODIS sensor will provide an economically viable solution that is currently unavailable.


Enhancing SODIS through the development of a sensor would strongly promote SODIS use, and thus promote the consumption of clean drinking water in areas that lack water infrastructure. Clean drinking water reduces the enormous human burden imposed by waterborne illness, which is responsible for billions of infections and millions of deaths each year. From an economic perspective, waterborne illness is responsible for tremendous health care costs and lost productivity. Finally, SODIS is an environmentally sustainable technique, using recycled materials and a green energy source, with the potential to reduce the use of fossil fuels and harsh chemicals for water disinfection.

Expected Results:

In order to build a reusable, ultra-low-cost SODIS sensor, the first goal of this project is to develop ink formulations that reversibly change color in response to ultraviolet radiation and are tunable to different doses of ultraviolet radiation. The second goal is to understand the kinetics of bacterial inactivation using identical doses of ultraviolet radiation, with the ultimate goal of creating ink formulations that will change color in unison with specific degrees of bacterial inactivation during SODIS treatments. These formulations will be packaged into resuable sensors that can be submerged in the SODIS bottle and will change color to alert the user once the treatment is complete. Progress will be evaluated against a set of project milestones and will culminate with an early prototype demonstration at the P3 National Sustainable Design Expo.

Supplemental Keywords:

Ultraviolet dosimeter, WASH, diarrheal disease, sustainable water management, drinking water, water treatment, water purification technologies, water filtration, solar water treatment, drinking water treatment technologies, solar water treatment, disinfection, pathogen removal, photocatalyst water disinfection