The Drinkable Book combines science with product design to solve a huge problem.
The Drinkable Book is not a guide to great drinks around the world. It solves the huge problem of bacterially contaminated water.
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While studying the material properties of paper as a graduate student, Theresa Dankovich, Ph.D., discovered and developed an inexpensive, simple and easily transportable nanotechnology-based method to purify drinking water.
She calls it The Drinkable Book. Each page is impregnated with bacteria-killing metal nanoparticles.
Dankovich revealed new results of recent field tests conducted in Africa and Bangladesh at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
"In Africa, we wanted to see if the filters would work on 'real water,' not water purposely contaminated in the lab," she says.
"One day, while we were filtering lightly contaminated water from an irrigation canal, nearby workers directed us to a ditch next to an elementary school, where raw sewage had been dumped. We found millions of bacteria; it was a challenging sample. But even with highly contaminated water sources like that one, we can achieve 99.9 percent purity with our silver- and copper-nanoparticle paper, bringing bacteria levels comparable to those of U.S. drinking water," Dankovich adds.
"Some silver and copper will leach from the nanoparticle-coated paper, but the amount lost into the water is within minimal values and well below Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization drinking water limits for metals."
Last year, Dankovich formed a nonprofit company, pAge Drinking Paper.
In collaboration with the nonprofit WATERisLIFE organization and Brian Gartside, a designer formerly with DDB New York and now with Deutsch, her company developed a unique product that is essentially a book comprised of pages embedded with silver nanoparticles.
Printed on each page is information on water safety both in English and the language spoken by those living where the filter is to be used. Each page can be removed from the book and slid into a special holding device in which water is poured through and filtered. A page can clean up to 26 gallons (100 liters) of drinking water; a book can filter one person's water needs for four years.
"We have a bunch of designs, and we are trying to trim them down and keep them simple," she says.
"Worldwide, many people use a 5-gallon bucket for many needs, so we are basing our approach on that type of container. Along with applications, our biggest current focus is to scale up, going from a lab bench experiment to a manufactured product. We have to go from 'cool chemistry' to something everyone can understand and use."