Though over 748 million people around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water, water filters aren’t as widely used as they could be due to prohibitive costs. Many rely on chemical methods of cleaning water instead, which only inactivate microorganisms rather than getting rid of them. Yet Uppsala University researchers developed a paper-thin water filter called the mille-feuille filter that not only cleans water, but rids it of harmful viruses, all at an affordable price.
Uppsala University designed a filter that comes as a paper sheet using cellulose nanofibers, which allows it to perform the potentially life-saving application of cleaning water of viruses. Cellulose is used in vacuum cleaners and tea bags, among several other common uses, yet typical cellulose can’t filter out viruses. This development is especially groundbreaking because most water filters can’t filter out viruses either; the pores in such filters are too large. Some viruses even resist chemical methods.
The mille-feuille filter, named for its internal resemblance to the French pastry of the same name, is not only effective but affordable as well. Uppsala University Professor of Nanotechnology Albert Mihranyan said, “With a filter material directly from nature, and by using simple production methods, we believe that our filter paper can become the affordable global water filtration solution and help save lives. Our goal is to develop a filter paper that can remove even the toughest viruses from water as easily as brewing coffee.”
Water-borne infections threaten not only those in developing countries who often don’t have adequate sanitation, but developed countries as well. One example is the Swedish town of Lilla Edet, where residents were infected with norovirus due to unsanitary municipal water in 2008. The mille-feuille filter could improve lives in every country worldwide.