SoLED offers an innovative approach to water disinfection

Turning on a tap to get a stream of clean fresh water just isn’t the reality for most countries in the world. At least two billion people worldwide use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

That’s why Professor Hadas Mamane and Ph.D. candidate Dana Pousty, from Tel Aviv University, teamed up to found SoLED, a UV LED-based water disinfection device designed to bring purified water in areas with limited infrastructure using patented technology developed after years of research. and testing.

SoLED is a small portable device powered by the sun and designed for rural areas with little or no electricity. It can be connected to any pipeline, filtration system or water source. Water flows through the device and is purified by UV light.

Professor Hadas Mamane with the SoLED device. Credit: Rafael Ben-Menashe / Tel Aviv University

“LEDs are light-emitting diodes. These are the little diodes that you have in traffic lights and in electrical devices, like little bright spots. Some know that LEDs appear in traffic lights in green, red – but what many don’t know is that they also come in the UV (ultraviolet) range,” said program manager Professor Mamane. of Environmental Engineering and Water-Energy (WE ) Laboratory of the School of Mechanical Engineering of Tel Aviv University, tells NoCamels.

According to Mamane, what we see with our eyes is in the visible spectrum and below that is the ultraviolet spectrum. Our eyes can’t perceive UV light, but it’s what gets absorbed into the genetic material of any cell and makes a change, which doesn’t allow replication.

“If a bacterium microbe absorbs UV light, it will modify the DNA,” adds Mamane, “and that microbe cannot produce offspring, or the next generation of microbes and therefore it will not cause disease because disease means the microbe enters our body. UV works like a physical technology where light shines on water and kills everything in it. Of course, we don’t want to be exposed to it. So we created a special reactor design, where water flows, absorbs UV radiation and kills germs and viruses.

The device has an efficient UV-LED reactor with a combination of frequencies based on maximum disinfection at low cost in a solar-powered or off-grid system. The reactor can be integrated into existing water filtration systems or operate as a stand-alone product integrated into any pipe.

Abstract water splash. Deposit photos

On June 14, SoLED was inaugurated in The Asper Fund for Bringing Clean Water To The World, a new fund led by Canadian Friends of Tel Aviv University. Last year, the company received the IUVA 2021 RadLaunch Award, recognizing technology developers working on materials, optics, design, and more. The company, which claims to be a non-profit organization, has also received research funding from the Israel Innovation Authority, the support arm of the Israeli government.

Challenge and Opportunities

Professors Mamane and Pousty have spent the past five years researching and testing UV LED disinfection methods at the TAU laboratory in Mamane and in the field. To conduct this research and develop technologies that could adapt to more complex areas for the exploitation and treatment of water, they traveled to India, Tanzania, Africa, Morocco and Mexico.

Mamane, who has a self-proclaimed “passion” for working on environmental issues, says one of the things that interested her the most was how to provide clean water in low- and middle-income settings, especially in rural areas.

“It’s kind of an incentive for SoLED,” she tells NoCamels, noting that in her research with the Water Lab, she found that while many can treat water at the household level, it can always contain biological contaminants (bacteria, viruses, dust, pollen, animal dander, to name a few.)

“Other people may feel good about the water they drink, but we have found in various places that up to 30% of the water stored in a household in a rural area can be contaminated with E. coli. “, she explains, “If you know the statistics – that one child per minute due to biological contamination of water – then the scale of diarrhea caused by contaminated water is enormous,” explains she.

Professor Hadas Mamane (left) and PhD student Dana Pousy with the SoLED device. Credit: Rafael Ben-Menashe / Tel Aviv University

Challenges to providing drinking water in rural areas include lack of infrastructure, lack of resources to support water treatment (little or no electricity or inadequate pipe systems) and the lack of relying on local people for maintenance of the water system, who are not qualified or equipped to do so.

Traditional methods of chlorination may also not be enough to eliminate the problem of viruses “and it can be difficult to bring in chlorine because it can come from a long way, so the supply chain can be problematic,” Mamane tells NoCamels. “Or if they don’t have water in a pipeline, then there’s no water pressure. It is therefore difficult to pass water through a filter when there is no pressure. These kinds of challenges lead us to think about how we can develop technologies adapted to these fields. »

But, she says, people are skeptical of working with communities where the customer isn’t paying for the product and “that needs to change.”

“It is very important for us to work for the people we want to serve. We are not interested in developed countries, we are interested in working with developing communities. It is therefore very important and essential for us to work with the people we want to serve and also with those who share the same vision. We have been told many times that it is not possible to develop an economic model that will work in these communities. I don’t agree with that.

“We believe anything is possible, you just have to put your mind to it. We have to make it a reality,” she adds.

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