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This article is from the In-Depth Report World Changing Ideas 2013
See Inside Scientific American Volume 307, Issue 6

7 Additional Compelling Breakthroughs

Air bags for cyclists, paper without trees, robot lifeguards, and more


Image: The Water Project

Ceramic Water Filters for the Developing World
Lack of access to clean water is a huge cause of disease and death in many parts of the world, and a variety of charities are working to provide potable water. One new option is a ceramic filter that has a silver lining, literally. The filter, which looks like a flowerpot, sits over a plastic bucket. Water is poured gradually into the pot, and it slowly seeps through. Small pores in the ceramic material filter out most impurities, but a colloidal silver coating also kills microbes. A recent study showed that the pots eliminated more than 99 percent of pathogens. The pots significantly improved the health of residents in a poor, rural Nigerian village after being used for six months.

Many nonprofit groups such as Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa are trying to make the pots more widely available. And Potters for Peace, which teaches people in communities without access to clean water how to make and use the pots, is planning to begin partnerships with communities in Colombia, Paraguay, Cameroon and Guinea–Bissau.

Related Links:
The Water Project
Theoretical and Empirical Modeling of Flow, Strength, Leaching and Micro-Structural Characteristics of V Shaped Porous Ceramic Water Filters (Study)

 

 


Image: Sugarmade

Tree-Free Paper
We have all seen signs near office printers or in restrooms reminding us not to use too much paper because it kills trees. Although most paper comes from managed tree farms, it takes 10 to 20 years for new trees that are planted to replace harvested ones. But what if paper could be made without the trees? Paper comprises mostly cellulose, and plenty of waste cellulose is out there, including bagasse, the fibrous byproduct of extracting juice from sugar cane.

Sugarmade, a company founded in 2009, is now marketing tree-free paper made from bagasse and bamboo. Both of the raw materials are renewable: bamboo grows much more quickly than trees, and bagasse is often disposed of by incineration. Based in San Jose, Calif., Sugarmade has rapidly been increasing its distribution network across the western and southern U.S. It is now conducting a lifecycle analysis of the environmental impact of its products, which will help the company make its paper as sustainably as possible.

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