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Nanotech “lily pads” are a new way to purify water

| September 23, 2014

If Mark Owen’s invention becomes as ubiquitous as he hopes, there will be some very confused frogs in our lakes, ponds, and rivers.

Mark Owen developed the LilyPad water purifier. At a full meter in diameter and coated in white plastic, the LilyPad water purifier doesn’t look like any lily pad I’ve seen—nor does it behave like typical lily pads.

lily pad

Actual lily pad are not as effective at eliminating toxins in water.  From Keith Smiley.

That white plastic that coats the LilyPad is actually an example of futuristic nano-technology, and it is powered by the greenest source in the solar system: the sun. “When sunlight hits the surface [of the LilyPad], it spurs a reaction that breaks down material in the water nearby,” reports Ben Schiller of Fast Company‘s Co.Exist.

And this isn’t just the type of water purifier designed to keep dirt and mud out of your water bottle. The LilyPad can actually eliminate harmful bacteria such as E.Coli and salmonella. Owen says it is also capable of trapping heavy metals.

lily pad

LilyPads, from Securing Water for Food.

The secret (aside from the ingenious nano-tech, solar-powered coating) is in the mesh interior, which Owen has been working on for several years. Owen says he was inspired to create the mesh material after seeing a “smog-eating” building in Japan. (Schiller notes that the “smog-eating” building was probably coated in titanium dioxide.)

He wondered if the same principle could be applied to waters. He got to work right way, but the LilyPad design was still a ways off. First, his company, Puralytics, came up with a bag that uses the same technology. The SolarBag treats small quantities of water—three liters at a time. It is currently sold in 60 countries.

The LilyPad takes things to the next level. Owen says that a LilyPad could potentially clean up a “whole pond” or waterway. If true, the implications for this technology are massive. As Schiller points out, LilyPads could be used to clean up water for crop irrigation, and it can be used to remove pollutants from rivers.

The low-maintenance aspect of the LilyPad is intriguing. All you have to do is plop a LilyPad into the water and let the sun take care of the rest. The same LilyPad can stay put for “months at a time” (no word on how long it takes to actually work its magic).

Puralytics currently has two pilots in operation to test out the LilyPad. Final pricing and a release date are contingent on the results of those pilots.

(No frogs were harmed during  the creation of LilyPad.)

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Category: Pollution, Recycling programs

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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