Solaqua is a water disinfection unit to be used in rural sub-Saharan Africa. It utilises ultra-violet and infra-red rays from the sun to eliminate pathogens within contaminated water. Raw water is first passed through a sari cloth filter to improve efficiency of solar water disinfection (SODIS). A five tap funnel fills five specially designed bottles to obtain ten litres of water. By spreading and laying the bottles on the ground, the transparent bottle surface allows maximum exposure to UV rays. The black, back surface of each bottle absorbs heat, while reflective inner surfaces reflect UV rays within the water itself.
Water purification, filtering and, or disinfection is an important aspect in the
lives of many people living in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Diarrheal diseases claim the lives of many, especially children under five. Current ways of utilisng SODIS in Africa involve ordinary PET bottles placed on top of corrugated iron sheets and left exposed to the sun for six hours. By including black and reflective surfaces, Solaqua can efficiently and quickly disinfect water. As a unit, Solaqua can obtain ten litres of water (average daily household use in rural Africa). The bottle shape design allows for angled side surfaces to reflect UV rays within the water. When Solaqua is being carried these angled bottle surfaces meet each other and create a split drum-like form.
Aesthetically, Solaqua’s form is abstractly reminiscent of a well. The orange and grey create sharp contrast and is easily identifiable. Since water is one of the most important aspects of life, Solaqua highlights this importance with its vibrant colours.
Screw cap lids on each bottle reduce re-contamination of water. Sari cloth is a readily available material and
is subsequently used as a simple cloth filter. Hinge brackets link the Solaqua’a handle with each of the five bottles. Each part of Solaqua is carefully designed and serves a function while still providing aesthetic appeal.
By using plastics in the manufacture of Solaqua, weight is reduced since long distances need to be travelled to fetch water. Each part can be replaced and recycled. ABS plastic is used when extra strength is needed, for example in the handle and bracket design. Blow moulded PET is used for each bottle since the clarity of PET provides maximum efficiency of UV exposure.
Ergonomically, Solaqua provides a double sided handle for two children to carry if
it is too heavy. However, still provides a central handle for an adult or stronger person to carry. Solaqua tries to move away from carrying heavy water tanks on heads (traditional method of carrying water within African communities) because of spinal and neck related injuries. However, the void created in the centre of the five bottles allows Solaqua to be placed onto the head if the user so chooses.
Is there a need for Solaqua? Yes, Solaqua promotes an environmentally sustainable technique of providing clean water. Boiling water requires fuels (wood and fire) to obtain clean water. Solaqua uses only the sun.
Solaqua represents excellence in design because each feature serves a purpose, from the innovative bottle shape and use of reflective and black surfaces, to the handle/filter/funnel unit. Together they create a product which is versatile enough for other target areas (natural disaster and camping environements), while solving existing problems in rural sub-Saharan Africa. By creating awareness of SODIS and problems with water in Africa, Solaqua tries to solve existing problems with new and simple technology. Simple designs can often solve problems efficiently.