Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

How a Chip Packet Can Sterilise Water

By Magdeline Lum

Chip packaging is providing a cheap material for a water purification system in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, and a “salmon cannon” is helping salmon swim upstream.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

A group of University of Adelaide mechanical engineering students and staff have designed a low-cost water treatment system that is easily constructed in remote communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG). This water treatment system consists of foil chip packets and a length of glass tubing.

The low-tech water treatment system exploits UV-A radiation to kill pathogens in water in a continuous feed set-up. The materials chosen are readily available in PNG. The team’s motivation for design and implementation was to avoid what is known as a “white man solution”.

Mechanical engineering students Michael Watchman, Harrison Evans, Mark Padovan and Anthony Liew first designed tested a workshop-manufactured system using high quality materials. They then designed a handmade low-tech version using plywood, a glass tube and high density polyethylene plastic sheeting with foiled chip packet wrappers. The plastic sheeting was specially shaped around the glass tubing to maximise the amount of sunlight reaching the water in the glass tube. The total cost of the system is $67.

“Our priority was to develop a system with, and not just for, the end-users,” says Dr Cristian Birzer, Lecturer in the School of Mechanical Engineering, who supervised the students with Dr Peter Kalt. “We wanted something where we could provide design guidelines and let the local communities build and...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.