Pure logix

A purification system that is designed to remove viruses, bacteria, parasites, pesticides and heavy metals from water could provide developing nations with safe drinking water.

A purification system that is designed to remove viruses, bacteria, parasites, pesticides and heavy metals from water could provide developing nations with a low-cost, sustainable supply of safe drinking water, its UK maker claims.

Recent data from the World Health Organisation suggests that up to 3,000 children die each day through consumption of polluted water. The Aqualogix, invented by Essex firm Ashton Industrial, can produce 5,000 litres of drinking water daily from surface water sources such as lakes and rivers — enough to sustain 1,000 people.

It can also process brackish water into fresh water for drinking and irrigation. It does not require a power supply or chemicals and can be operated using a foot pump or connected to a vehicle battery or solar power system.

The device uses Ultra-Filtration (UF) to remove impurities. Water is strained through a sieve to capture weeds and coarse matter, then passed through an Active Carbon filter impregnated with tiny amounts of silver to prevent bacterial growth. This improves taste and removes pesticides, herbicides and nitrates.

It is then pumped under pressure into a matrix of porous tubes. Each microscopic pore is two and a half times smaller than any known virus, trapping impurities but allowing minerals and water through to a main tube to be collected.

The Aqualogix fits into a large rucksack and weighs under 25kg. It could become the permanent water source for a village or be taken to disaster areas.

Managing director Steve Ashton said: ‘The device will cost between £1,200 and £1,500. If 1,000 people can use water from it, it costs a maximum of £1.50 to provide clean water for a person for life. It takes 10 minutes to set the technology up and it needs very little upkeep.’

The MoD has shown interest and with help from the Defence Diversification Agency, a government body set up to promote technology transfer from the military to industry, the company may soon set up a South African factory manufacturing the Aqualogix for sale elsewhere in Africa.

By 2006 the company hopes to incorporate an arsenic filter, allowing the Aqualogix to be used in India, Bangladesh and Vietnam, where naturally occurring arsenic is poisoning up to 12 million people.

Rather than using power-hungry reverse osmosis, where water is pressurised to force it through a membrane, the filter is titanium based.

Reverse osmosis strips minerals from water and this may be harmful to health over a long period. The Aqualogix technology is based on an existing process to produce clean drinking and cooking water, used by the Field Missions division of NATO in its transit camps. However, the equipment used for this process is expensive, truck-mounted, and requires a constant reliable supply of electricity.