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Oneer -- CSIR’s answer to the problem of safe drinking water

Read time: 1 min
14 Mar 2018

Clean drinking water is an essential prerequisite for good health. Drinking contaminated water leads to diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid. In a country like India, where 21% of communicable diseases spread through unsafe water, and more than 500 children under the age of five die each day from diarrhoea, the accessibility to clean drinking water is paramount. A new device developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR’s) Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR) may soon put an end to clean water woes.

Water purification systems are not new in the market. However, most of them are either too expensive for everyone to afford, or need heavy maintenance. The water purifier developed by the researchers at CSIR-IITR, named Oneer, is different. It is an electronic device that runs on solar energy and provides clean water for less than two paise per litre. Unlike Ultra Violet (UV) water purifiers that kill microorganisms from clear water, Oneer can also treat brackish or turbid water with microorganisms.

The water purifier works on the principle of anodic oxidation, an electrochemical method commonly used for the production of oxide films. “The innovative technology used in the device eliminates all disease-causing pathogens such as virus, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and cyst. It provides safe drinking water to communities as per National and International standards prescribed for potable water by World Health Organization (WHO) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)”, said Prof. Alok Dhawan, Director of CSIR-IITR, in a statement to Research Matters.

Oneer comes in two versions -- domestic and commercial.  The domestic version can supply 10 litres of water in 5 minutes, and the commercial version produces 450 litres of treated water per hour. The unique modular design allows for scaling up of the process from 5000 to 1 lakh litres per day. Since the device operates on solar energy, it can provide clean drinking water to remote areas without electricity, and to street vendors.

The water purifier is the first of its kind that has almost zero maintenance. “An inbuilt smart sensor system in the device' provides real-time information of operational steps. It comes with a self-clean mode, and automatic tank filling ensures 24x7 availability of safe drinking water”, said Prof. Dhawan. Also, it doesn’t require a membrane for the filtration process, and hence the frequent replacement of membranes is unnecessary. If there are higher levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) or other chemical contaminants in the water, specific pre-filters can be used.

Oneer is also designed to conserve essential minerals in the purified water, unlike other technologies. “One common concern related to the use of reverse osmosis (RO) water purifiers is the probability of losing a majority of essential minerals during the purification process. The unique disinfection process of Oneer retains essential natural minerals, and thus is beneficial for our health and well-being”, Prof. Dhawan said. 

The scientists at CSIR-IITR have also released a commercial prototype of Oneer, and have successfully tested it on various occasions. In fact, the drinking water from Oneer is being regularly used by the CSIR-IITR staff. The device was also used during the CSIR Sports Meet and in a Krishi Mela in Lucknow with more than 5000 participants, to provide drinking water.
Oneer promises clean drinking water for all and is a step in the right direction towards a healthy country. So how soon can we see some in the market? “CSIR-IITR is in the process of setting up 5-6 experimental units across Lucknow for receiving feedback from the public. The technology is ready for commercialisation, and many private companies have shown their interest in the technology”, signed off Prof. Dhawan.