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Creative solutions to increase the population access to drinking water

Clean Water and Sanitation


Contamination of water by bacteria and viruses is a current societal problem in many parts of the world, especially because the removal of such is difficulted due to their reduced size, often smaller than 5 micrometers. This is particularly critical for population living in highly dense populated areas with a single water source, since contamination could be further linked to a rapid spread of the pathogen among the community with potential generation of a new epidemic or pandemic. Such communities might not have access to top-notch water treatment possibilities such as reverse osmosis or UV-disinfection facilities or, even when those treatments are available, water contamination could occur after delivery by the treatment plant. Thus, the development of portable water treatment devices/systems/materials capable of removing or inactivating pathogens is of great interest.  

Our challenge

Come up with potential solutions for portable water treatment devices/systems/materials capable of removing or inactivating pathogens present in the water. This potential solution can be enclosed in a completely new idea/design/solution or in an idea/design/solution that would enable portability to a current already-existent commercial water treatment system/device/material. In this process, the team should consider material aspects, engineering and processing aspects, and also stakeholder perspectives (who could use and profit from such a solution?). 

Expected impact

Portable and effective water treatment in regard to pathogen elimination could be the answer for water crisis in areas with water scarcity, but also be a mean to fight water contamination by pathogens in urban areas. 

Target group

The challenge is open for bachelor students in their last semester or master students. Check “admission process” for details. 

Expectations from students

Work in interdisciplinary teams. Average workload 2-5 hours/week for 5 weeks with a 3-weeks break in between. Presentation of potential solutions takes place on February 2nd, 2022 in the format of a 30-45 minutes presentation by the whole team. No written assignment is required.

Start/End/Structure of challenge: 

The project will be run over an eight-week period (between December 15th 2021 and February 4th 2022) with a break between the Holidays’ season from December 19th 2021 until January 9th 2022:

                      15.12.2021, 14:00-17:00 (CET): Kick-Off, definition of teams

                      12.01.2022, 13:30-15:30 (CET): Identifying needs, questions and stakeholders

                      19.01.2022, 13:30-15:30 (CET): Brainstorming meeting

                      02.02.2022, 14:00-17:00 (CET): Ideas presentation, SWOT

                      04.02.2022: 13:30-14:30 (CET): Closing event


Format of challenge: This Mini-challenge will run in an online environment with a variety of interactive activities. It is necessary to have access to a microphone. Use of a webcam is not mandatory, but encouraged.

Deadline for application: December 10th, 2021 23:59 CET

Admission process: Please send a short motivation paragraph (maximum 200 words) and a proof of enrolment that indicates you are a bachelor student in the last semester or a master student. All admitted students will be informed shortly before the kick-off and receive the link for the first meeting."

ECTS or Certification information

Mini-challenge (3 ECTS)