Two UBC engineering students have designed a new filter they hope will ease access to clean water.
UBC engineering alum Bradley Pierik said the device, called Tapp, is designed to be adaptable to situations ranging from hiking to the aftermath of a natural disaster. He and chemical engineering student Kevin Reilly created Twothirds Water Inc. to sell the new filter.
Pierik discovered his passion for water treatment while doing field work in Ethiopia during his undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto.
“It really bothers me that something that’s so easy to avoid is causing suffering to so many people in the world. And when I think about what things can be done just to make the world better – you start with the low-hanging fruit, right, here’s something that’s causing half of the world’s hospitalizations and there’s really easy fixes, so let’s work on that one for now,” Pierik said.
He came up with the idea for Tapp while he was a graduate student at UBC. During his degree, he worked in Haiti, Senegal, Uganda, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, and Kenya. During his travels, he gathered feedback on the design of his water filter. Consistently, he found that simplicity was key.
“I started taking apart other people’s products and putting things together the way I thought they should work,” Pierik said. “That was a long, fun process as an engineer who geeks out on this stuff.”
In its final design, Tapp can be connected to containers full of dirty water through tubing or bottle threads. Water flows through the Tapp and comes out clean on the other end.
Inside the Tapp, the water is filtered through a hollow fiber microfiltration membrane. Essentially, it works like a playground sand sifter; water flows through, and particles are trapped by the membrane.
Pierek said the process should remove 99 per cent of bacteria, parasites, and dirt from the water.
Pierre Bérubé, an associate professor with the faculty of engineering at UBC who specializes in drinking water treatment, had high praise for the new device.
“It’s always exciting to see a student take the knowledge developed, or that they learned in our classes, and apply that to develop an independent product,” Bérubé said.
Bérubé also applauded the design of the filter.
“The one aspect that I saw that’s different from a lot of products out there is the ability to clean the filter … that’s a very innovative part of the design.”
Twothirds Water Inc. is currently holding a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to raise startup funds. The money they raise will also be used to increase their profile to help them find partners to distribute Tapp in other countries.
Their stated goal is $20,000. For every Tapp purchased, one will be sent to somebody in a developing country.
Pierek expects the first shipment of his water filters to arrive on March 31.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article featured a photo that depicted two Tapp employees that were not founders and UBC engineers Bradley Pierik and Kevin Reilly. The photo has been changed to avoid confusion.