Year/Course: 2019-2020, Easter 2020

Inventors: Dr. Ilan Adler, University College London & Peter McKay, EcoNomad Solutions Ltd.
Mentor: Dr. Simon Pulman-Jones

Based on over 5 years of collaborative work, the inventors have developed a novel solar-powered water pump that has no moving parts and can be made from easily-sourced materials. The water pump will be used to extract water for an irrigation project in Ethiopia as part of a UKRI grant, and has undergone field trials in Mexico, as well as extensive lab testing in UCL. The inventors now want to extend their work to other countries and explore other markets and applications.

The water pump works using thermal energy from sunlight, rather than conventional photovoltaics, and involves a number of novel engineering approaches. Unlike any other water pump in the market, it does not have any moving parts and does not require any electronic components to operate, making it easy to manufacture, maintain and repair locally. A simplified low-cost version can be used at the household level, and a more sophisticated closed loop version can be used with higher flow rates for larger-scale applications, such as irrigation.

In parallel with its core water-pumping function, the pump can integrate with an optional solar pasteuriser, which has the unique feature of ‘self-regulating’ with varying sunlight, guaranteeing that water is safe to consume without requiring manual checks. Controlled lab tests and early field trials have shown that the device is effective in removing 100% of pathogen indicators in just under 15 minutes, with moderate sunlight, achieving temperatures of 75–80°C.

The questions for the i-Team will include investigating different countries and geographies that have a particular need for a solution of this kind, as well as looking at the different ways in which the technology can be used. Their goal will be to identify and recommend the next steps for the inventors to take to ensure that the technology can fulfil its potential.