Research & Technology Update: January 2017

Sarah puts together a six-piece biological ceramic- filter for the column-testing setup. 

Sarah puts together a six-piece biological ceramic- filter for the column-testing setup. 

Billy, Saul, and Sarah build the biomas dryer. 

Billy, Saul, and Sarah build the biomas dryer. 

A 3.5 year old ceramic filter – still treats dangerous water to safe levels! 

A 3.5 year old ceramic filter – still treats dangerous water to safe levels! 

 Caminos de Agua (Caminos) has a growing research and development team. Our staff and volunteers are working on various projects from filter development, to rainwater systems, to improvised machinery.

This update highlights a few of our technical projects.

Multi-use Bicycle Pump

In collaboration with El Maíz Más Pequeño, we designed and built a custom-made bicycle stand that can attach to any bicycle to make a “bicibomba” - a bicycle-powered water pump. It can be used to pump water from ground level, for example from a rainwater cistern, to either a filter, a small rooftop cistern, or directly into your home. The bicycle is dual-purpose: it can be used as transportation and as a pump (many bicycles converted to pump are designed solely for that purpose).  The bicycle stand that is used while pumping converts into a rack over the rear wheel. We are now working on a second version of the bicycle pump and will post our finalized, open-source designs once they are complete. Thanks to Maya Pedal for design inspiration!

Carbon Filter Research

To combat the regional arsenic and fluoride contamination, we are developing new carbon filters that can remove these contaminants from drinking water. These filters work together with our existing ceramic filters. To test our filters we are currently constructing our column-testing setup that allows us to run four tests simultaneously.  We are also working on designing a prototype filter system. We will use the column setup to test new materials as we continue our research to improve our filters. The prototype system will soon be deployed in a local community to help us better understand how people use drinking water filters in their day-to-day lives. 

Fun with fans

Our team has recently purchased a couple of fans for other motorized projects. Using an industrial fan and some lumber, we built a biomass dryer for drying wood, bones, and biochar to make our material production processes more consistent. With a standard ceiling fan, we also built a sample tumbler that will let us quickly compare materials for how well they remove fluoride or arsenic from drinking water. With these projects complete, we are gearing up for rapidly making, testing, and improving a variety of cheap, accessible materials.

In other news, we are developing a rainwater calculator that allows people in the region (and around the world) to size their own rainwater harvesting systems. Keep your eyes open for the calculator's upcoming release on the Caminos website.

Ceramic Filter Follow Up Studies

Finally, we recently tested twelve ceramic filters that had been in constant in-home use for the past three and a half years. Despite the filters' pocked and pitted appearances, all twelve continued to make biologically-dangerous water safe for human consumption! We're excited to see how long our ceramic filters remain effective as we continue to monitor our in-use systems. We'll post more about each of these projects as they improve and progress. Thanks for tuning in to January's tech update!