We really love hearing about solar pioneers who uncover ways to help humanity using solar power. Deepika Kurup is one those pioneers. The 14-year old ninth-grader from New Hampshire recently earned the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist” for inventing a solar-powered water jug that transforms dirty water into purified drinking water.
After visiting India and seeing young children drink contaminated water from a dirty pool, Deepika “instantly knew she had to do something about the global water crisis” (about 780 million people in developing countries lack access to clean drinking water — yup, it’s a big problem). She hypothesized that an advanced composite of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide could be used to kill waterborne bacteria much faster, cheaper and more portably than current technology.
Leveraging her talent in physics, chemistry, biology and math, Deepika successfully discovered the correct ratio of composite and bonding agents (cement and 3M “glass bubbles”) to create special photocatalytic rods designed for placement in water bottles and other portable purifying systems. Once activated by sunlight, coliform and E. coli levels in contaminated water of her experiment fell to below EPA limits in a matter of hours.
Deepika now plans to approach national foundation and NGOs to help make her invention a reality for millions of people who need it. Let’s hope she takes it all the way!
If you’re interested in the science behind Deepika’s watershed experiment, we recommend you watch the video of her presentation to the judges of the Discovery Education Young Scientist Challenge. A lot of the content might be over your head but it’s nevertheless a huge inspiration to watch a 14-year old high school student be so encouraged to change the world.