Colombia is the second country in the world with the most hydrological resources. But despite the abundance of water in the country, almost 8% of Colombian homes do not have access to running water. In rural zones, the percentage goes up to 30%. This translates to diseases and deaths that could be avoided, and that is precisely what the 24 year old biomedical engineer María Alexandra Tamayo is aiming for.
The water issue was brought to her attention during a hackathon in which she took part after graduating from college and where she met two residents of the poorest zone in Colombia. It was then and there that Tamayo decided to apply her expertise in nanotechnology to purify water, and that is how NanoPro was born. "It's a device capable of eliminating fungi, viruses, and bacteria in water without affecting its flavor, smell, and color," the engineer explains. Thanks to this invention, Tamayo has been selected as one of the winners in the Latin American Innovators Under 35 from the MIT Technology Review LATAM edition.
Current water treatment systems are expensive in Colombia. The traditional reverse osmosis method implies an elevated consumption of energy and as residue, it creates brine or overly salted water. But as Tamayo details, “the communities with no access to potable water are also the poorest ones." This is the main reason why her filter invention is also centered on being affordable. Unlike other filters, NanoPro does not retain bacteria, given that its filtration system completely eliminates all microorganisms, a perk that increases its safety and reduces the need of maintenance. Another important plus is that the filter does not need energy to work. The filter can be used in rural and urban zones, since it can be adapted to faucets or thermoses, for those areas where the water supply network does not reach.
With her creation, Tamayo aims to democratize the access to safe water in places where, even when available, water is not apt for human consumption.
The director of the Business Development department in Comau Robotics, Arturo Baroncelli, and member of the jury for the 2019 Latin American Innovators Under 35 considers that such project is “innovating and interesting from various points of view,” and though he’s aware that the project is still in an intermediate stage, Baroncelli believes this invention has, "a solid foundation with huge potential.”