University of Adelaide engineering students have developed a simple water treatment system using foil chip packets and glass tubing, hoping they can save lives in the developing world.

The device consists of half a cylinder of reflective material. All the light that hits that reflective material is directed at a glass tube, which is about a metre-and-a-half long. Water flows through the glass tube at a fairly slow rate and a particular part of the sunlight spectrum, the UV-A radiation, reacts with the water to produce oxygen radicals which kill the pathogens.

The engineering students did their work with the people of PNG in mind, so they were keen to use readily available materials. They found that the metallised plastic used for chip wrappers worked exceptionally as the reflective material.

Dr Chris Birzer said that the University was offering a design rather than a finished product. “The final design is something that anyone can make, so it’s not a product we’re giving, it’s just a concept, a design that anyone can make and therefore they own it – it’s theirs.”