Filtration system makes 100% clean water

Revolutionary water filtration system could end global thirst

/ 10:52 AM February 03, 2024

University of Texas researchers created a filtration system that it says can remove 100% of contaminants from water. It consists of a syringe and a specialized hydrogel membrane, which makes it easy to use. As a result, it could expand access to clean drinking water to billions worldwide. 

The United Nations says two billion people cannot access this vital resource. Also, nearly half of the world’s population faces severe water scarcity. Both would likely worsen as climate change and population growth worsen every year. Fortunately, this filtration system might be the key to quench everyone’s thirst.

How does this filtration system work?

Water filtration system developed by University of Texas
Photo courtesy of UT News

The new filtration system relies on intertwined webs of nanocellulose fibers called hydrogel. It catches particles while allowing clean water to pass through.


It draws water from an unsafe water source using a syringe. Then, it injects the liquid through the hydrogel. The hydrogel catches contaminants while letting clean water flow through.


Hearing the word “syringe” might make you think it only purifies scoops of water. However, it uses syringes as large as 1.5 liters, which satisfies 40% of the daily required clean drinking water for a single person.

University of Texas experts also tested the technology on different water sources. Specifically, they tested it on microplastics, tiny bits of plastic debris from industrial waste.

The DeBrief also says the hydrogel is reusable for 30 times before needing replacement and is 100% biodegradable. In contrast, similar purification methods pale in comparison.

They rely on paper filters and microporous membranes that can only capture 40% to 80% of particles greater than 10 nanometers. Consequently, it would let a significant amount of smaller contaminants stay in the water. 

The researchers want to expand the filtration system’s capacity to provide drinking water to more people worldwide. 

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“Our system, with its high efficiency in removing diverse types of particles, offers an attractive yet practical solution in improving freshwater availability,” materials science professor Guihua Yu says.

“The reality is, a large percentage of the world’s population lacks access to safe drinking water, even in places where freshwater sources are available,” states study lead author Chuxin Lei.

“There is an urgent need for simple, universal, and efficient materials and devices for purifying particle-contaminated water, which should be able to help people around the world obtain clean water,” Lei says.

Making water out of thin air

Another team from the University of Texas created a device that turns humid air into drinking water. It also uses a hydrogel, but it also relies on solar energy.

Depending on humidity, the machine can produce between 3.5 and 7  kg of water per kilogram of gel materials. “With our new hydrogel, we’re not just pulling water out of thin air,” said Cockrell School of Engineering professor Guihua Yu.

“We’re doing it extremely fast and without consuming too much energy. What’s really fascinating about our hydrogel is how it releases water.”

“Think about a hot Texas summer. We could just use our temperatures’ natural ups and downs. No need to crank up any heaters,” he added. Consequently, people in areas with excess heat could place the device outdoors to produce water automatically.

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“By transforming the hydrogel into micro-sized particles, we can make the water capture and release ultrafast,” said Weixin Guan, a graduate student in Yu’s lab and one of the research leaders. 

“This offers a new, highly efficient type of sorbents that can significantly enhance the water production by multiple daily cycling.”

“We developed this device with the ultimate goal to be available to people around the world who need quick and consistent access to clean, drinkable water, particularly in those arid areas,” stated Yaxuan Zhao, another student from Yu’s laboratory.

Powerful solution

The filtration system’s simple design could make it a powerful solution for water shortages in several countries.

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The UN says we need to increase the clean water supply sixfold to ensure everyone can drink. Soon, this device could become one of the most effective solutions for reaching this goal.

TAGS: Water

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