Using Water to Clean Water: Dr. Selma Mededovic Thagard

780 million people lack access to reliably clean water; approximately one in nine people on the planet. More than 3.4 million people die each year from contaminated water; 99% of them in the developing world. It will take a diversity of strategies to end the global water crisis, such as new wells, home filtration, toilets and treatment. It will also require cutting-edge innovation. That is where Dr. Selma Mededovic Thagard comes in. More after the video.

Dr. Thagard, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Clarkson University, is pioneering a new purification process that, if successful, could help millions purify water quickly and efficiently, making it safe for drinking and cooking.

She begins by changing water from liquid to vapor. “Then, we go beyond that,” she says, “heating the vapor until it becomes plasma. In this state, the molecules become highly reactive. It’s like creating lightning in liquids.”

This conversion happens in a plasma reactor that generates an electrical field so powerful that within minutes it can purify several gallons of drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is funding the first-of-its-kind project.

“We’re not heating the water that’s being purified,” Thagard says, “so the plasma reactor requires much less energy than some traditional purification methods. People all over the world — especially in places with few resources — could use this process to remove toxins and water-borne parasites from their drinking supply.”

More on Dr. Thagard and her work at  her website.

More on the global water crisis at