Birmingham Environmental Engineering researchers win award for low cost water testing device

A team of Birmingham Environmental Engineering researchers recently won an award at this year’s ICE West Midlands Civil Engineering Awards for a low cost device which checks whether water is safe to drink.

The device uses fluorescence spectroscopy to provide near-instantaneous indications of whether or not water is safe to drink.  Unlike other testing systems, the low-cost device requires only a small (10ml) sample of water and works without the need for expensive reagents. This makes the device ideally suited for use in disaster-relief situations and for monitoring water quality in low resource countries.  

Assisted by funding from the Diageo Foundation, the research team is working with NGO partners to ensure that the device meets end-user requirements, and is undertaking field trials in urban and rural communities in Nigeria and Malawi to ensure the technology is appropriate and robust.

Led by Professor John Bridgeman, the team first started working on using fluorescence to treat water in 2007. Since 2010, the team has focused on developing solutions for developing countries. The next step is to conduct a nine-month field test of the latest prototype to prove the efficacy of the testing device in a real-world setting, with the aim of persuading stakeholders to adopt the new technology.

Reflecting on his team’s achievement, Professor Bridgeman said:

“We’re proud to have won an ICE West Midlands Civil Engineering Award for our water testing device. The device is an example of our team’s ability to translate scientific knowledge into practical solutions with real world impact. We’re looking forward to developing the device further and helping to improve access to safe, clean drinking water around the world.”