Characterisation of Ionised and Zero-Valent Metals as Disinfectants for Microbiologically Contaminated Water in Resource-Poor Settings

EPA Grant Number: SU836019
Title: Characterisation of Ionised and Zero-Valent Metals as Disinfectants for Microbiologically Contaminated Water in Resource-Poor Settings
Investigators: Sobsey, Mark D. , Singer, Philip C. , Bartram, Jamie
Current Investigators: Sobsey, Mark D. , Singer, Philip C. , Mehendale, A. M. , Bharambhe, M. S. , Komandur, Abhinav , Malone, Alyson , Armstrong, Andrew , Garg, B.S. , Bailey, Emily , Leker, Hannah , Motte, Hunter , Bartram, Jamie , Radhakrishnan, Jani , Richardson, Jess , Rothwell, Kathleen , Cooper, Mary , Islam, Mehrin , Clear, Michael , Jathan, Nikita , Deshmukh, P. , Reddi, Prianca , Cory, Rose , Witsil, Tucker
Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Current Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill , Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences , Virginia Commonwealth University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $14,883
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Chemical Safety , P3 Challenge Area - Safe and Sustainable Water Resources , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


Waterborne illness is one of the world’s most pervasive causes of morbidity and mortality, with severe health, social, environmental and economic impact. Human faeces are often excreted in such a fashion as to contaminate community water supplies. Frequently, diarrhoeal illnesses also induce dehydration, resulting in increased consumption of water and a resultant decrease in access to an already-scarce resource. Sustainable community water access, especially in contexts where water is scarce, can therefore often not be achieved, and adverse environmental impacts stemming from faecal contamination of water caused by improper waste disposal can often not be adequately mitigated. This project aims to create and implement a revolutionary point-of-use disinfectant that is cheap, robust, consumable, non-toxic, and effective. This disinfectant will empower those who need it most by making it possible for households to treat drinking water where it is used in the home.


This project focuses on evaluation of the metals copper, zinc, and their alloy (brass) as disinfectants in both the ionic, and zero-valent forms. The ionic forms will consist of the metal and an inactive counter-ion; the zero-valent forms will consist of the metals in their elemental form, as well as in the form of stabilised nanoparticles. The project will proceed by: testing the metals’ efficacy in various settings, designing a delivery system, final testing/evaluation, and pilot community implementation. The pilot implementation targets a rural community in the state of Maharashtra, India with the assistance of the MGIMS, a top-tier medical university located in Sewagram. This implementation will positively affect the people living there, by increasing access to safe water, reducing waterborne disease and thereby facilitating productivity and prosperity.

Expected Results:

The project is expected to improve the microbial quality of water, thereby lowering waterborne pathogen exposure and reducing waterborne illness risks. Results will be measured in two ways: in the laboratory by measurable decreases in pathogen indicators by treatment and in the field, by qualitative and quantitative measures of decreased waterborne microbes and illness as indicators of effectiveness. These indicators will include consumer satisfaction surveys, administered by MGIMS, as well as (pending funding) longer-range epidemiological surveys aimed at quantifying improved microbial water quality and reduced waterborne illness risks.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 8 publications for this project

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report