Purdue University Graduate School
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Applications and Acceptance of Solar UV Technologies for Drinking Water Disinfection in Low-Income Settings

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posted on 2021-10-13, 18:45 authored by Margaret M BusseMargaret M Busse

Access to potable water has been identified as a basic human right, yet it is estimated that 2.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to safely managed drinking water. Many of those without access live in regions of the world with abundant sunlight, which can be utilized both directly and indirectly to disinfect drinking water. Directly it can be used in solar water disinfection (SODIS) applications, and indirectly it can be collected by solar panels to power commercially available UV reactors. Herein, we study the potential for direct and indirect water disinfection technologies to be used and adopted in developing countries, with specific insight into their application in the Dominican Republic and Kenya.

The amount of available ambient solar UV was both measured and modelled to inform design and modelling of treatment systems, and to understand whether real-time monitoring of ambient UV is required for the operation of systems directly utilizing UV for disinfection. The model both over- and under-predicted measurements of ambient UV, and did so at inconsistent rates, most likely as a result of cloud cover. This indicates that real-time monitoring of ambient UV would most likely be needed for disinfection methods directly using solar UV for inactivation in order to ensure water was always dosed properly.

The amount of available ambient solar UV was input into a raytracing model (Photopia, LTI Optics) to simulate the amplification of solar spectral irradiance within a continuous-flow compound parabolic collector (CPC). This informed design improvements that allowed for an increase in flow rate through the system, which was supported by field testing of the reactor. Further, two commercial UV reactors, one utilizing a low-pressure (LP) lamp and the other utilizing an LED source, were tested in the lab to verify their ability to inactivate S. typhimurium LT2. The LP-based device outperformed the LED-based device, which was unable to achieve over 2-log10 units of inactivation under any of the studied conditions.

A life cycle assessment was conducted to assess the environmental impact of the three studied UV reactors against traditional chlorination and water delivery methods. Chlorine had the lowest impact in every category under all of the studied conditions, but there have been many barriers reported on the lack of adoption of chlorine. So the next lowest impact technology was evaluated at the community scale, which was the LP reactor. Therefore, the LP reactor was installed in study communities in both the Dominican Republic and Kenya. In the Dominican Republic, the systems suffered from a lack of boots on the ground, and faced technical, social, and economic barriers to adoption. In Kenya, the project suffered from similar constraints, that did not allow for project assessment. This work not only addresses the barriers faced in both of these projects, but provides suggestions for improving similar projects in the future.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Civil Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Ernest R. Blatchley III

Additional Committee Member 2

Chad Jafvert

Additional Committee Member 3

Amisha Shah

Additional Committee Member 4

Zhao Ma