12.05.17 - A gravitational solar-thermal water purifier panel developed by EPFL has won second place in the category of ‘Innovative Research & Development – International Institutions’ of the first cycle of the United Arab Emirates' Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Water Award.

The award is overseen by the UAE’s Water Aid Foundation (Suqia), launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Suqia oversees the award under the umbrella of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI).

The Award aims to encourage leading corporations, research centers, institutions and innovators from across the world to compete to find sustainable and innovative solar-energy solutions to the problem of water scarcity across the world. The Award itself is valued at $1,000,000.

The competition includes three categories: Innovative Projects (Small and Large projects), Innovative Research and Development (National and International institutions), and Innovative Youth. 

A patent-pending gravitational solar-thermal water purification panel developed by László Forró’s lab at EPFL came second in the Innovative Research and Development category. The device uses sunlight to filter and sterilize contaminated water.

The technology is based on an innovative nanoporous photocatalytic aerogel composite membrane, which, upon solar irradiation, renders contaminated water safe by removing and inactivating infectious disease-causing biological agents such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa and worms.

The system does not require electricity or chemical agents, while lab tests predict that a 1-m2 panel can filter 70 liters of drinking water in 5 hours. This amount is equal to the average daily water intake of a small community.

“This award would help us finalize the validation process of our cost-effective and sustainable water-purifying solution by independent certified laboratories and receive endorsements from third parties to distribute it in remote communities,” says Dr Endre Horváth, who leads the project. "We are honored and delighted to be winners today and to receive this award, and we are confident of the exposure it will grant us. This technology has the potential to provide a step forward for infrastructure improvements aimed at addressing health improvement under extreme poverty.”