Water has been, and still is, a major cause of death all over the world. I don’t mean water like you’re probably thinking about… what we’re talking about here is dirty water. It is a brutal irony of existence that the very thing ensuring life on the planet is also one of the biggest killers of our species.

If you ever plan to go on a trek (or have gone on one or two), then you know that water is a subject that deserves a lot of attention, especially when you’re out in the heat. You can’t take huge buckets of water along on a long run, as that would be too impractical. Although you may find streams, small waterfalls or small ponds of water along the way, the water you find in them may not be safe to drink. This dirty water can be packed with bacteria and other undesirable materials that you definitely don’t want to be drinking.

What if there was a small, easily portable device that could take care of this problem?

LifeStraw: What Is It?

lifestraw-water-filter

Lifestraw Water Filter

LifeStraw is a small, portable water filter that can be used to decontaminate water and guarantee that it is fit for human consumption. The LifeStraw is a plastic tube that is 310 mm long and 30 mm in diameter. In its lifetime, a LifeStraw can filter 1000 liters (264 gallons) of water (which is the average consumption of water by humans in a year!). It is capable of eliminating almost all the bacteria and parasites present in water. The manufacturers claim that water passed through it will be 99.9% free of bacteria that were present in it before filtration.

How Does It Work?

The best thing about LifeStraw, and the reason why it has been so well accepted, is that it does not involve any chemical or electrical filtration of water. It employs the same, old-school physical filtration systems of much older water filters, yet does it in a way that wipes out even the germs present in microbiological levels in water.

Water is first drawn through the straw before passing through hollow fibers that filter the water so that the water particles become only 2 micrometer (across) in size. The working of this straw is based on the basic principle of suction. Like in any straw, when you pull the liquid up by sucking on the top end of the straw, you create an area of low pressure inside the straw, which causes the liquid in the straw to flow up to your mouth.

Using this simple technique, the LifeStraw can filter almost 1000 liters of water. It clears water of certain waterborne protozoan parasites, including Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

Applications

Due to its tremendous portability and basic functioning, it finds high applicability in a myriad of areas and domains. For starters, it’s great to just carry around if you happen to go out on a long walk. Not only this, the LifeStraw is highly useful while traveling, camping, boating, fishing, and running. Not to forget, a LifeStraw can be a very good present too!

Apart from these regular applications, LifeStraw has proved to be immensely useful in regions struck by natural disasters and those suffering in their aftermath. Relief operations by NGOs have benefited greatly from this small piece of equipment.

Lifestraw water filter

As these operations are primarily carried out in areas where pure water cannot be accessed through conventional means, LifeStraw has been crticized for it being ‘too expensive for the target market.’ Still, LifeStraw and the LifeStraw Family were distributed among the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2010 Pakistan floods, and the 2011 Thailand floods.

There is no doubt that it is a simple, immensely useful device. There are some obstacles that still need to be tackled when it comes to its price, but we expect it to continue being such a great help in times of need.

Source: ScienceABC (Science ABC Copyright © 2018)