The University Network

University of Virginia Public Benefit Company Makes Splash with Water Purification Technology

There has never been better a better time for advances in the area of water purification. As the crisis involving safe and drinkable water throughout many third world countries continues to prove problematic, many countries across the developed world are working to create innovative and new ways of solving this problem in as sustainable a way as possible. One such company has recently made significant strides in that direction.

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville is the birthplace of MadiDrop PBC. Created two years ago as a public benefit company, it has successfully produced a ceramic tablet designed to purify any water it comes into contact with. Not quite like anything we have seen before, this little tablet was given a name inspired by the South African word for water, which is “madi.”  

The MadiDrop was developed by James (Jim) Smith, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UVA, in his lab on the campus. It is possible for one MadiDrop to serve the drinking needs of one family for up to six months. In a recent interview by UVA Today, the technology behind it was described as “elegantly simple.” When it comes into contact with water, the tablet releases silver ions at a rate that is well controlled. Smith described these ions as “an excellent disinfectant for waterborne pathogens” in his interview.  

“I believe the technology is a disruptive one” Smith told The University Network (TUN).

There is not a comparable product on the market. The MadiDrop is highly effective water purification solution, but it also is remarkably easy to use and inexpensive.

According to Smith, “A $5 MadiDrop can treat up to 20 liters of water per day for 6-12 months.” He adds that the company has already produced and sold over 20,000 MadiDrops “through over 100 pilot studies in about 40 different countries.”

Currently, the MadiDrop is part of a study in a rural part of South Africa. Smith indicates that so far, further developments with the product are going well and the results have been satisfactory. “I am in South Africa now and have just seen the latest water quality data,” he told TUN. “The MadiDrop is performing extremely well and typically reduces coliform bacteria in household drinking water from thousands of colony-forming units per 100 milliliters to zero overnight. In fact, the MadiDrop is outperforming conventional silver-ceramic filters.”

Given what the MadiDrop can accomplish, it is hardly surprising that Smith plans to continue spurring the growth of the company and sustainable technology it produces. “There really is a need for millions of MadiDrops” he told TUN. “We hope to begin to fill that need in the coming years.”