Introduction: Water Purification Through Activated Carbon (Project)


Many people around the world have limited access to water sources. This project is an inexpensive and simple solution to help solve the clean water crisis in some third world countries.

Step 1: The Problem


Clean Water is not available to over a tenth of the world's population, this filter will create an inexpensive and reliable way to filter out harmful materials from unclean water.

Step 2: Hypothesis

If the water used is clean from parasites and harmful bacteria, then the water will be perfectly safe to drink after using the filter.

Step 3: Variables

Independent Variable: The cleanliness of the water.

Dependent Variable: The unsafe materials left in the water.

Controlled Variable: The amount of charcoal, sand and gravel used.

Step 4: Background Research

I used two main scientific journals, the New York Department of Health [1] and the Purdue University Journal [2]. I also used [3] to gather the results for my experiment.

I also know that there are many ways to purify water such as distillation and the use of filters.

Step 5: Materials

(Photo sources, in order: [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10]

Purified, filter grade sand

Activated Charcoal

Clean Gravel

A plastic water bottle (preferably larger than 800ml with a circumference bigger than 8 inches)

3 clean and sanitary pieces of cloth

A knife

Food Coloring

Water (can be either clean or unclean)

Cylinder (can be substituted with a cup or another bottle)

2 coffee filters

Step 6: Procedure

1. Cut open the bottom of a large plastic bottle.

2. Stuff the cloths into the water bottle top to avoid the fine materials from spilling out and to hold back the carbon when filtering the water

3. Place the three coffee filters at the bottom of the bottle

3. Start by pouring in activated charcoal over the coffee filter until it reaches a minimum of 6 centimeters in height.

4. Add the purified sand on top of it, until it reaches at least 5 centimeters in height.

5. Add the gravel until there is only about 5 centimeters left of the bottle

6. Start by pouring 500ml of dirty water into the cylinder

8. Pour the mixture into the filter and wait until all of the water passes through.

9. Record the results

Step 7: Data Table

Step 8: Patterns

I noticed one pattern, which was that the water hardness and the nitrate/nitrite is very high. After researching about water filters effects on water hardness and nitrate/nitrite, I understood that charcoal filters do not affect water hardness and nitrate/nitrite, which is why there is a very apparent increase in nitrite/nitrate and water hardness. Water hardness is not harmful, although the high levels of nitrite and nitrate do have very detrimental affects on the health of the drinker.

Step 9: Data, Data Analysis, and Results


(Due to the recent pandemic, I was unable to conduct the experiment since I limited myself from leaving the house and could not get materials like purified sand, gravel and activated charcoal.)

(Data Extracted from:

For use in real life situations, The filter made the water clear of any apparent and noticeable pollutants, although it had a high level of nitrate/nitrite (50 ppm). To put into perspective, the maximum amount of nitrate/nitrite to be considered drinking water by the United States Food and Drug Administration is 10 ppm. The water after being run through the filter also had 8 times the permissible total hardness (400 ppm). The water had a PH of 8, meaning that is within the accepted range and had no lead, pestecides, and Chlorine. The color of the water was also yellow, showing some discoloration but it could be due to using foraged materials which do not meet the industry's standard.

Step 10: Evaluating the Experiment and Improving the Experiment

Although I have not been able to conduct the experiment, the results attained by [3] did not show the amount of harmful bacteria in the water. The experiment also might have used unclean materials since it used foraged materials from the wilderness instead of buying it pure from industries, meaning that there could be foreign objects in the materials used. The purified water was also yellow meaning that some dirt has stayed in the water, but this problem could have been prevented if she used multiple finer cloths and coffee filters to help make the sediment and dirt not seep through. The water also had a lot of nitrate/nitrite, meaning that it could be very harmful, although nitrite and nitrate cannot be removed through carbon filters and boiling. The only way to remove nitrite and nitrate without access to semi permeable membranes (for reverse osmosis) or an ion exchange resin (for ion exchange) is by distilling [11]. Although the amount of the two compounds varies in different water sources meaning that it may work in real life applications without any nitrate, as the amount of it is dependant on the source it came from. For water sources with high amounts of bacteria, repetitive use of the filter could cause an increase of it in the purified water, so the best course of action is to pasteurize it [1] (boiling the water at 65 degrees Celsius at least for at least 20 minutes).

Step 11: Conclusion (Evaluating the Hypothesis)

In conclusion, we can deduce that the experiment did filter out many harmful substances, although the water is still unsafe to drink if the water source has high levels of nitrite/nitrate (50 ppm,

Step 12: Application (Why I Chose to Do This Project and What the Project Is About)


Over 790 million [12] people around the world do not have access to clean water. This project's purpose is to make a cheap and easily accessible water filter to help combat the lack of availability of clean water in poor countries. This filter helps remove most sediment and molecules that make water in such countries not safe to drink, and to further reduce the risk of harmful bacteria being in the water the water should be pasteurized at 65 degrees Celsius (or above) for 20 minutes or more [1]. This helps kill many different types of harmful organisms that are present in unclean water sources like Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Endameba, the eggs of certain worms, Vibrio cholera, Shigella, Salmonella bacteria, and the strains of bacteria that cause Typhoid [1].

Step 13: Bibiliography

(All photos used in the video are cited below)

[1] “Boil Water Response - Information for the Public Health Professional.” New York State Department Of Health,

[2] Kamrin, Michael, et al. “Distillation For Home Water Treatment.” Purdue University, Michigan State University,

[3] Crews, Tyler. “DIY Water Filtration Systems: Do They Really Work?” Medium, 21 Apr. 2017,

[4] “The Sand Purified Buy in Kaskelen.” All,

[5] Zarek, Jonnie. “Activated Charcoal.”,

[6] Herold's Garden Center

[7] Drink More Custom Water

[8] Pinterest

[9] Drifton

[10] Amazon

[11] “Nitrates in Well Water.” FilterWater, 23 Dec. 2016, “Boil Water Response - Information for the Public Health Professional.” New York State Department Of Health,

[12]“Global WASH Fast Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , 11 Apr. 2016,

[13] Bassmaster

[14] Pinterest

[15] Africa Rising