Solar-Powered Water Purifier

Project Type: Earth, Sky and Sea

Project Information

Project Description:

The task is to design and build a portable, solar-powered water purifier.  The purifier will strain and filter raw surface or well water to remove particles.  Chemicals, parasites and bacteria are treated by any of four proven processes – UV light, chlorination, plasma-generated OH radicals, and high-voltage discharges – or some combination of these techniques.  The power system is limited to a single 100-W solar panel plus one or more 12-V batteries for energy storage. Water with known contaminates will be used to determine how quickly and efficiently the system produces potable water.

Level of Difficulty: High


UV-LEDs, electrolysis, venturi, ozone, plasma, pH, pesticides, Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, E-coli, partial discharge, barrier discharge, ionization, centrifugal pump


Clay Dillow, “Electrified Cotton Filter Soaked in Nanotech Cheaply and Quickly Purifies Large Volumes of Water,” Popular Science, August 31, 2010;

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, “Water Quality Monitoring; Standards and Treatment,”

Team Roles

Electrical Engineers (2) – The Electrical Engineers on the project are responsible for the power network that pumps and purifies the water pushed through the system.  Design decisions will determine operation time vs. recharge time for a limited power budget.

Mechanical Engineers (2) – The Mechanical Engineers on the project are responsible for the pump, filters, plumbing, and purification elements in the system.  Design decisions will determine system size, weight, portability, and filter maintenance cycles.

Biologists (2) – The project Biologists will determine the organic and inorganic contaminants in the raw water to be purified.  Similarly, the Biologists will evaluate the contamination level of the purified water and compare the results to known standards for municipal drinking water.  Design decisions will adjust the rate of clean water production vs. the concentration of purification agents needed to eliminate all pathogens.

Computer Scientists (2) – The Computer Scientists are responsible for the diagnostic instruments on the system that assure proper function.  These measurements could include battery charge state, water flow rate, pressure drop across filters, and output pH.  Information will be recorded via a wireless laptop connection or phone app.

Designer (2) – Designers on the project are responsible for combining the conflicting machine requirements into a single, safe design that accomplishes the machine’s purpose.  Additionally, the design group determines the procedures for assembly, transportation, system use, and repacking.

Journalist (1) – The Journalist communicates with the local media and works with the tech groups to produce a final publication. The Journalist also works closely with the Multimedia Artist to provide video and graphic art displays for demonstrations that explain the project to the public. The whole project is your project.

Multimedia Artist (1) – The Artist documents the project’s progress though video records and works with the Journalist to maintain the project’s presence on social media platforms. Additionally, the Artist designs and organizes all public relations events to enhance the community’s awareness of science and technology. The whole project is your project.

Business Manager (1) – The Business Manager reports the project’s progress against a predetermined schedule, determines critical path items to completion, and tracks project spending to assure that costs remain within a fixed budget. The Manager works with all team members to identify problems early and resolve them quickly. The whole project is your project.

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