IWA Publishing is pleased to announce a new initiative spotlighting the work of our latest cohort of Open Access Ambassadors

Our OA Ambassadors raise awareness in their local communities about global OA movements as well as related opportunities through IWA Publishing. They are representatives of both the International Water Association and IWA Publishing and our joint goals to empower the next generation of water leaders and to shape the future of the water sector. These blog posts highlight their specialty and research focus, as well as expressing the importance of Open Access publishing. 

Our next blog post comes from Kator Jethro Ifyalem, an MSc student from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Kator is a civil engineer committed to environmental sustainability. Connect with Kator on LinkedIn.

A big thank you again to Kator for contributing! 

Bio-inspired water filtration technologies draw inspiration from nature’s filtration systems to develop innovative ways to treat water. By mimicking natural processes and structures, these technologies can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of water filtration, which is crucial for ensuring access to clean water for all. Natural water filtration systems include Wetlands, mangroves, clams and mussels.

How these natural systems work
These natural water filtration systems work through a combination of physical and biological processes. For instance, wetlands and mangroves have vegetation that helps to slow down water flow, which allows sediment and other particles to settle out. The roots of these plants also provide a surface area for microorganisms to grow, which can break down pollutants. Clams and mussels use their gills to filter water and can also absorb nutrients and pollutants through their tissues.

How these technologies mimic nature
Examples include biomimetic membranes, graphene-based filters and nanocellulose filters. Bio-inspired water filtration technologies mimic nature in a variety of ways. Biomimetic membranes use a structure that is similar to biological membranes, which are composed of layers of lipid molecules. Graphene-based filters use a porous structure that is similar to the structure of biological membranes, which allows them to filter out contaminants at a molecular level. Nanocellulose filters use a porous structure that is similar to the fibres found in natural filtration systems like wetlands.

Advantages of bio-inspired water filtration technologies
Bio-inspired water filtration technologies have several advantages over traditional filtration methods. They can be more efficient and selective, meaning they can remove contaminants more effectively while allowing water to pass through easily. They can also be more sustainable since they are often made from renewable materials and can be biodegradable. These technologies are cost-effective, since they may require less maintenance and replacement than traditional filtration methods.

The current state of access to clean water worldwide
Access to clean water is a critical issue for global health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 3 persons worldwide lacks access to safe drinking water. This can lead to a range of health problems, including waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and diarrhoea.

Challenges and Future Directions
Top of FormDeveloping and scaling up bio-inspired water filtration technologies can be challenging due to technical factors such as the difficulty in designing materials that can mimic natural filtration systems, and the need for new manufacturing processes and infrastructure to scale up production and implementation. Economic and political barriers can also limit adoption, including the initial cost of these technologies and regulatory barriers in certain regions or countries.

Despite these challenges, there is significant potential for future innovation in bio-inspired water filtration technologies, including the development of more efficient and scalable materials and techniques, as well as partnerships between government, academia, and industry to overcome economic and political barriers.

Investing in bio-inspired water filtration technologies is crucial for improving access to clean water, which is essential for human health and well-being. Billions of people worldwide still lack access to safe drinking water, and by investing in these technologies, we can work towards ensuring that everyone has access to clean and safe drinking water, contributing to better health outcomes and a more sustainable future.

Therefore, continued research, development, and investment in bio-inspired water filtration technologies are essential to address the global water crisis and improve the health and well-being of communities worldwide.

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