"We're using water to clean water." This is how Selma Mededovic Thagard describes her current work on purifying drinking water.
The assistant professor of chemical & biomolecular engineering at Clarkson University is pioneering a new purification process that, if successful, could help millions of people without access to clean water quickly and efficiently purify water to make it safe for drinking and cooking.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is funding this first-of-its-kind water purification research project.
Thagard's method begins by changing water from liquid to vapor. "Then, we go beyond that," she says, "heating the vapor until it becomes plasma. In this state, the molecules become highly reactive. It's like creating lightning in liquids."
This conversion happens in a plasma reactor that generates an electrical field so powerful that within minutes it can purify several gallons of drinking water.
"We're not heating the water that's being purified," Thagard says, "so the plasma reactor requires much less energy than some traditional purification methods. People all over the world—especially in places with few resources—could use this process to remove toxins and water-borne parasites from their drinking supply."
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