Development of Low-Cost Water Filter Using Sapwood Xylem

Development of Low-Cost Water Filter Using Sapwood Xylem
Rohit Karnik, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Amy Smith, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Founding Director, MIT D-Lab

Period of performance: 

September 2016 to August 2018
filter, water, clean water, India, trees, xylem, international development, sustainable development, renewable


This project aims at addressing the largely unmet need to provide safe and affordable drinking water to low-income groups by developing low-cost water filters that exploit the natural filtration capabilities of xylem tissue in wood. The key advantages of xylem as a water filter are low filter replacement cost compared to existing gravity-driven filters, light weight, easy transportability, good rejection of bacteria and protozoa, and the ability to manufacture locally with minimal infrastructure. Filtration devices developed from this material have potential to act as low-cost household water filters or could be distributed in emergencies.

Our initial work has addressed the challenge of dry storage of xylem filters and advanced our understanding of xylem as a filter material. In parallel, we have explored channels for implementation and have identified potential partners and commercialization strategies in India. The proposed project will identify the ‘sweet spot’ for xylem filters by assessing the usability, desirability, and affordability of low-cost filters, and by addressing feasibility through understanding and optimization of filter flow rate and lifetime, validating filtration performance in the lab and field, and creating a roadmap for local manufacture and commercialization.