Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Flower Inspired Water Purifier

A team of engineers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a new type of water purifier whose design is inspired by a rose. The flower-like device costs a couple cents to produce and can purify a half gallon of water per hour per square meter. To accomplish this, the water purifier employs a novel approach to solar steaming that utilizes the sun to separate salt and impurities from water. The results of their work were recently published in the journal Advanced Materials

 

“We designed the purification-collection unisystem to include a connection point for a low-pressure pump to help condense the water more effectively,” says lead author Weigu Li, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. “Once it is condensed, the glass jar is designed to be compact, sturdy and secure for storing clean water.”

A new device for collecting and purifying water, developed at The University of Texas at Austin, was inspired by a rose
A new device for collecting and purifying water, developed at The University of Texas at Austin, was inspired by a rose.
Credit: University of Texas at Austin

 

From the University of Texas at Austin article: "Fan and her team experimented with a number of different ways to shape the paper to see what was best for achieving optimal water retention levels. They began by placing single, round layers of the coated paper flat on the ground under direct sunlight. The single sheets showed promise as water collectors but not in sufficient amounts. After toying with a few other shapes, Fan was inspired by a book she read in high school. Although not about roses per se, “The Black Tulip” by Alexandre Dumas gave her the idea to try using a flower-like shape, and she discovered the rose to be ideal. Its structure allowed more direct sunlight to hit the photothermic material – with more internal reflections – than other floral shapes and also provided enlarged surface area for water vapor to dissipate from the material.

The device collects water through its stem-like tube – feeding it to the flower-shaped structure on top. It can also collect rain drops coming from above. Water finds its way to the petals where the polypyrrole material coating the flower turns the water into steam. Impurities naturally separate from water when condensed in this way."

 

Read more about the flower inspired water purifier at University of Texas at Austin.