Teenager brings hope to clean water industry

Young scientist wins challenge with clean water technology

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Students enthusiastic about science recently participated in the 14th annual America’s Top Young Scientist Challenge sponsored by Discovery Education and 3M. The competition encouraged students in grades 5-8 to create an innovative solution that would impact an everyday problem. Students submitted short videos demonstrating their ideas.

The competition uncovered a group of young people interested in all types of science, including clean water. Challenge winner Deepika Kurup might be a good candidate for a future water plant operator.

Her prototype uses solar energy to disinfect contaminated water. The 14-year-old hypothesized that Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide exposed to sunlight (photocatalysis) cane kill harmful pathogens found in water and accelerate the disinfection process.

Kurup’s research involved coating hollow rods with Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide mixtures, placing each rod in a separate container, and filling the containers with water samples from the Merrimack River. She sampled the water at three-hour intervals, placing samples in Petri dishes, and then in an incubator. Bacteria formations gave her the winning results. Adding Zinc Oxide to Titanium Dioxide increased the photocatalytic effect and reduced the amount of bacterial colonies.

According to FoxNews.com, “Kurup’s green technology could help the more than 1.1 billion people throughout the world without access to clean water.”

Kurup says on the Challenge website, “My proudest accomplishment is finding an innovative solution to harness solar energy for water purification. I truly believe that this technology has the power to save millions of lives across the world.” 

While all 14-year-olds are probably not researching new disinfection methods, the competition shows that there are promising young people interested in keeping water clean.



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