Our Research Development of communication materials for the dissemination and commercialization of an open-sourced xylem water filter


How can we facilitate the usage and enable widespread dissemination of xylem filtration technology to improve access to safe drinking water?

Research Strategy

  • Publicize the technology through an open access web portal with information on the basic science and filter manufacture process
  • Collaborate with NGOs and interested entrepreneurs in India to manufacture and distribute xylem-based filters
  • Create easy-to-understand manuals to help guide the fabrication of xylem-based devices

Project description

Water-borne diseases caused by microbial contamination of drinking water are a cause of global health concern. The adoption of existing technologies in resource-constrained settings where the risk of these diseases is high remains low. The major barriers impeding adoption are access, affordability, awareness and social acceptance.

We have used naturally-occurring xylem tissue in plants to create novel, inexpensive, biodegradable water filters that can lower the aforementioned barriers and improve access to safe drinking water. Xylem filters measuring about 5 x 5 x 1 cubic centimeters and weighing only ~8 g, can effectively remove water-borne bacteria and protozoa and process 10-100L of water depending on water quality when operated under a 1-meter gravity head.

The xylem filtration technology is open-source and our vision is to facilitate the usage and enable the widespread dissemination of this technology in low-resource settings to mitigate the risk of waterborne diseases. Towards this endeavor, we will collaborate with NGOs and interested entrepreneurs in India to manufacture xylem-filtration devices locally and take them to the users. This grant supports the development of communication material to facilitate the dissemination of this technology. This project was originally supported by a J-WAFS Solutions grant in 2016.

Leadership for this project was shared across the research team. Full leadership includes:

Rohit Karnik, Associate Department Head for Education, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Amy Smith, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Founding Director, MIT D-Lab

Anish Paul Antony, Postdoctoral Associate, MIT D-Lab

Megha Hegde, Research Associate, MIT D-Lab

Kendra Leith, Associate Director for Research, MIT D-Lab

Krithika Ramchander, PhD Candidate, 2018-2019 Meswani Fellow, Department of Mechanical Engineering


  • Videos were created to facilitate the dissemination of the technology for school students and teachers interested in using the filter, and also for NGOs & entrepreneurs interested in commercializing the technology
  • An open access web portal that can provide scientific information on the technology and guidance for school students, educators, entrepreneurs, and NGOs was developed and set up
  • The scientific findings associated with the technology were compiled in a manuscript that has been published in Nature Communications
  • The contaminant removal capacity of xylem filters was tested and showed >4-log removal of rotavirus (causal organism for the largest number of diarrheal deaths amongst children under the age of five) and >3-log removal of E. coli


Additional Details

Impact Areas

  • Water

Research Themes

  • Water Purification & Desalination

Year Funded

  • 2019

Grant Type

  • India Grant


  • Completed