During their sophomore year at URI, Isabella Silverman and Alexa Leone’s professor came to them with a problem. They were on a J-term trip to the Dominican Republic, a country where clean drinking water is a commodity. The two engineering students were tasked with finding a sustainable, affordable, and user-friendly method of filtering water to make it safe for consumption. Using a grant from Undergraduate Research and Innovation, they came up with “H₂Go”- a water-filtration system that fits comfortably inside your standard suitcase. The product is able to adapt to changes in water qualities and even uses reverse osmosis to filter out salty sea water from clean, drinkable water. After heading back to the Dominican Republic to conduct further research, Alexa and Isabella entered a shark-tank competition in Boston for the New England Environment and Water Association. There, they won first place for their innovative design. When asked about their plans for H₂Go’s future, the young engineers stated “we want to expand our system to make a 2.0 model and make the system more user friendly, with portable, water-resistant solar panels”. The use of solar panels is so important, as the innovators said that electricity can go out for hours a day in the DR. The versatile, adaptable, and portable design of H₂Go makes it a game-changing innovation for developing countries.
Pictured to the left: Isabella (left) and Alexa (right) with their award from the NEWEA pitch event.
In the Dominican Republic, many of the water filtration systems put in place have failed due to lack of education and destruction from natural disasters. Bad infrastructure at treatment plants and contamination during transportation makes the water unsafe to drink even after being cleaned. Schools in the area are forced to spend more than $1,000 USD per year to purchase packaged gallons of water. Isabella stated “the water we tested directly from the bottles that the community was buying showed contamination with fecal matter”. In a country where money and water are both so valuable, this was a heartbreaking realization. “This made me realize that the system we created actually has a serious purpose and need”. The students made sure to keep accessibility and affordability in mind. H₂Go is a much more cost-effective system than the purchase of water bottles, and more environmentally friendly. Replacement filters, which need to be changed around every 6 months, are relatively inexpensive and available at the local pool store in the Dominican Republic.
At peak efficiency, the system can produce about 113 liters of water per hour. The filtration system runs for 8 hours per day, which means it can help 452 people get the daily recommended amount of clean water each day. The students hope to give the product to schools and community centers, where it will be able to help the most people. “We feel like the impact we are making is significant but more can always be done”. With hopes to expand to more developing countries and disaster prone areas in the US, H₂Go has the potential to help many people in need and reduce plastic waste.