The Book That Can Clean Water

The Drinkable Book, which contains paper infused with silver and copper nanoparticles, removed contaminants from water

Contaminated water is a serious problem in many parts of the world. But a novel idea might be about to change that.

New research found that, when dispersed into sheets of paper, nanoparticles of certain metals could clean water.

During her studies as a graduate student, Theresa Dankovich, PhD, found that paper infused with tiny particles of certain metals could purify drinking water.

“In Africa, we wanted to see if the filters would work on ‘real water,’ not water purposely contaminated in the lab,” Dr. Dankovich said in a press release. “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. 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 US drinking water.”

The concept behind the new technology — which Dr. Dankovich calls "The Drinkable Book" — is to impregnate paper with very tiny pieces of silver called nanoparticles.

People have known for centuries that silver has the ability to kill bacteria.

Dr. Dankovich tried impregnating thick filter paper with silver. She discovered that copper also worked. The nanoparticles killed many kinds of bacteria and some viruses.

After she finished her education, Dr. Dankovich formed the nonprofit company pAge Drinking Paper.

The company produces a book of pages with embedded silver nanoparticles. Each page is printed with water safety information. One page can clean up to 26 gallons of water.

Dr. Dankovich designed the filters to use in 5-gallon buckets.

“We have a bunch of designs, and we are trying to trim them down and keep them simple,” Dr. Dankovich said. “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.”

Dr. Dankovich presented her research Aug. 16 at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

This project was funded by iDe Bangladesh, Carnegie Mellon University, WATERisLIFE, the NIH Fogarty Center and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Conflict of interest disclosures were not available at the time of publication.