Two students from the US, Ryan Thorpe and Rachel Chang, won the 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize on August 29. The students developed a new way to quickly detect and eliminate dangerous bacteria in water.

At the award ceremony during World Water Week in Stockholm, H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden presented the prize. The system that Thorpe and Chang created can detect water contaminated with Shigella, E. coli, Salmonella, and Cholera and eliminate them much faster than conventional methods.

In its citation, the Jury wrote: “This year’s winning project embodies the fundamental principle of providing safe drinking water. The winner’s motivation is to eliminate millions of human deaths each year. The project developed a unique, rapid, and sensitive method to identify, quantify and control water contaminants.”

The students’ system detects as little as one reproductive bacteria colony per liter instantaneously and eliminates bacterial presence in approximately ten seconds. In contrast, conventional methods have detection limits of up to 1,000 colonies and take one to two days. The students’ approach could prevent the contraction and outbreak of waterborne diseases and expand potable water throughout the world.

“This method is applicable to both the developed and developing world,” the Jury wrote. “The winning project has used fundamental science in an elegant way to address pathogenic bacteria in drinking water. The project has the potential to revolutionize the future of water quality.”

A Diploma of Excellence was also awarded to the students Aniruddah Chowdhury, Arnab Chakraborty, and Rituraj Das Gupta from Bangladesh. Their project researched more efficient ways to remove dyes from textile industry discharges, using a composite of titanium dioxide and cheap, locally sourced chemicals.

About the Stockholm Junior Water Prize

The Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition brings together the world’s brightest young scientists to encourage their continued interest in water and the environment. This year, thousands of participants in countries all over the globe joined national competitions for the chance to represent their nation at the international final held during the World Water Week in Stockholm. Teams from 33 countries competed in the 2017 finals.