Pen is mightier than worm

The foul taste of water purification tablets or the long winded process of boiling and filtering drinking water are the bane of the camper’s life, and in genuine disaster situations chemical disinfectants are often not available. However, help may soon be at hand in the shape of a battery-powered disinfection pen developed by researchers at the University of North Carolina.

The new technology, funded by MIOX Corporation of Albuquerque, and presented at a recent meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, can inactivate waterborne parasites, viruses and bacteria within minutes.

The pen, a miniaturisation of technology that Miox has been using in commercial water systems for the last 5 years, uses a small electrical current and salt to produce a disinfectant that is more effective than chlorine. One 2ml dose will treat 1 litre of water at 1/100th the cost of bottled water.

The 6-inch long device has three basic components; an electrolytic cell, a brine generation compartment, which is filled with common salt, and a power compartment where the batteries are located.

Current is applied across the electrolytic cell that contains a small amount of the contaminated water mixed with salt. This produces a chlorine based mixed-oxidant solution that can kill resistant micro-organisms like cryptosporidium and giardia.

The disinfectant solution made in the pen is then added to a litre of raw water to make it safe to drink. Now in the prototype stage, Miox claims that the pen will go into production around the middle of 2001.

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