Innovative Design to Collect and Purify Water Inspired by a Rose

A white rose with blue light shining through.
A rose-inspired water purifier has been made at The University of Texas that can be described as a marvel of technology and visual delight bundled into one. (Image: via © Elen)

A purifier with an innovative design inspired by a rose to collect and purify water is warmly welcomed. A dazzling-looking flower with an amazing aroma, the rose has served as the inspiration behind many iconic poems and songs. The rose is the flower of first choice for wooing loved ones on occasions like Valentine’s Day, and it is also used aplenty to adorn weddings.

However, sometimes a beautiful, fragrant flower may serve as the inspiration behind scientific innovations too. A rose-inspired water purifier has been made at The University of Texas that can be described as a marvel of technology and visual delight bundled into one. The device is meant for collecting and purifying water and its running cost is reasonably low.

The purifier has a rose petal-like structure and each model costs below two cents to make. It can purify over half a gallon of water/hour for each square yard. The device was made by the University team whose leader was Associate Professor Donglei Fan.

The device relies on solar steaming for water purification. It deploys solar energy to segregate impurities, including salt, from water by using evaporation. The study authors were inspired by an origami rose for this project.

The solar-evaporation system to purify water is made from black sheets of paper shaped like rose petals

The solar-steaming system was made from black paper sheets shaped like rose petals. These petals are linked to a stem-shaped tube. Owing to its 3D rose shape, the device can collect and purify a lot of water.

The prevalent solar-steaming technologies are not exactly affordable, say the team members. The unit the University of Texas makes uses materials that are portable and lightweight, as well as cheap.

It resembles a black-petaled rose kept in a glass jar. Professor Fan said: “We were searching for more efficient ways to apply the solar-steaming technique for water production by using black filtered paper coated with a special type of polymer, known as polypyrrole.” This material is known for its decent photothermal properties.

 Solar-evaporation design to purify water. Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin.
Solar-evaporation design to purify water. (Image: Cockrell School of Engineering via The University of Texas at Austin)

Fan and her team tried out many ways to shape the paper and figured out which one yields the maximum result to purify water after a lot of trial and error. They tried a few shapes and Fan drew inspiration from a book she read as a student. The Black Tulip, an immortal creation of Alexandre Dumas, served as the source for her idea.

She chose a rose shape for the device because the rose shape allows direct sunlight to seep through the photothermic material and the internal reflections are enhanced too. The petal also offers an abundant surface area for evaporation.

The rose-shaped purifier device collects water courtesy of its stem-like tube. That feeds the flower-shaped structure placed on top. It is also capable of collecting raindrops. The polypyrrole material coating on the petals helps segregate impurities from the water through evaporation.

Weigu Li, who assisted Professor Fan, said: “We designed the purification-collection uni-system to include a connection point for a low-pressure pump to help condense the water more effectively. Once it is condensed, the glass jar is designed to be compact, sturdy, and secure for storing clean water.”

The device also discards any traces of contamination, like bacteria and heavy metals, from the water. It generates clean drinkable water that adheres to WHO standards.

The research team is confident that the rose-shaped water purifier is a better alternative to the existing solar-powered water purification systems on the market.

Praying for rain.
Praying for rain. Pure drinking water is a precious and scarce necessity for much of the world. (Image: Kevin Carden via Dreamstime)

Weigu Li said that they added a low-pressure pump to the device so that the stem section can supply collected water to the flower petal parts effectively. After condensation is done, the glass jar stores the purified, clean water. It is compact and sturdily built. The team believes that this unit can be used to collect and purify water in households and workplace setups.

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