Mazzetti and Cal Poly’s Team Tech Team Up Against Cholera


By Courtney Richardson, Mechanical Engineer

The Challenge

Mazzetti is partnering with Cal Poly’s Team Tech to develop a solution to prevent the outbreak of cholera and other bacterial pathogens in developing countries.  Team Tech is a multi-disciplinary group within SWE where students work to develop product solutions for developing countries.

As you may be aware, many developing countries have reoccurring sanitary issues.  Water sources serve several means:  bathing, hand washing, dish washing, cleaning, and human-waste disposal.  When pathogens (ie. cholera, hepatitis) infiltrate the water source, it becomes undesirable for personal hygiene.  When people use contaminated water to wash their hands, they are introducing/reintroducing these pathogens to their immune system. Today, cases of cholera continue to decay the health of developing counties. (Read more about our recent trip to Haiti, with Project HOPE, to help combat cholera, post Hurricane Matthew.)

Although it is difficult to identify, poor hygiene practices are one of the leading causes of a compromised immune system, which in some circumstances, can lead to death. In 2015, just over 1300 deaths were reported to the World Health Organization.

Cholera Cases Reported to WHO by Year and by Continent


Cholera Cases Reported to WHO by Year and by Continent

The Goal

We will work together with our Cal Poly team to develop a low-cost, solar-powered ozonation or UV device for handwashing in resource-limited areas.  Electricity is a scarce commodity in these areas. So we will explore using batteries charged by solar (photovoltaics) as our power source.  Ozonation and UVA exposure have been proven to be effective in the treatment and disinfection of contaminated water, without the side effects of using harsh chemicals.

How Does UVA exposure kill pathogens?

SODIS (Solar Disinfection) has been used for more than 2000 years for the disinfection and reduction of water borne pathogens.  Water exposed to the sun for more than six hours at 104 °F has been shown to reduce bacterial pathogens and viruses such as Cholera, E.Coli, Salmonella, Hepatitis, and Giardia by 99.999%.The radiation from the sun causes cellular damage in the viruses and bacteria, rendering the pathogens inactive.

How does Ozonation work?

Let me take you back to chemistry class: Ozone can be created when an electrical field introduces a spark and splits the diatomic bond between oxygen molecules.  Negatively charged oxygen atoms will seek out individual oxygen modules and form a weak bond.  This weak bond will only last for a few minutes but serves as a significantly higher oxidant than most chemical treatments.  Unlike its harsh chemical counterparts, Ozone is non-toxic, eco-friendly, and registered as a good grade “sanitizer” by the EPA. 

The Solution

So what does this all mean? Over the course of 12 months, Mazzetti and Cal Poly’s Team Tech will be researching, designing, and prototyping a product for immediate use in developing countries.  Check back on the Mazzetti blog as we report on our progress, rising to this challenge…


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