Earlier this year, I read with interest about research into a foam water filter that reportedly reduces hazardous pathogens in drinking water significantly. The research, conducted by Michigan State University in Lansing, evaluated the efficacy of the multi-barrier, biofilm foam filter, which is designed and manufactured by Amway. As a low cost, potential alternative to existing household filtration methods in water-scarce areas, the filter could be used in remote locations that lack access to safe water.

According to the reports, the filter has a unique biological layer that allows organisms within the foam to attack foreign pathogens as water passes through. The growth of these “friendly” microorganisms in the biofilm layer actually allows the filter to become more efficient over time at reducing protozoa, bacteria and viruses. The researchers plan to continue evaluating the filter’s ability to deliver safe drinking water with field studies at a Crow reservation in Montana and a small village in Ghana.

Clean drinking water is a resource that should be universally available but unfortunately is not. Globally, it is said that one in nine people lack access to safe water. Should this biofilm filter — or one like it — prove to be viable long term, it will make a real difference in the world.

And, though securing clean drinking water around the globe is of primary importance, such a filter also could benefit industrial evaporative cooling systems. While it seems unlikely that a biofilm filter will completely replace all of the water filtration and treatment technologies use for industrial process water, it could reduce the pressure on water resources. Particularly in light of the ever widening water shortages in the West and the battle over water rights, something like a biofilm water filter may find wider use than simply in economically underdeveloped parts of the world.

While development of the biofilm filter continues, economics of a different sort takes the stage in this issue of Process Cooling. In “Economics Can Be Cool,” the engineering team from SPX Cooling Technologies, Overland Park, Kan., offers a four step process to evaluate the economic viability and payback of cooling tower repairs and upgrades. By evaluating the relationship between economic impact vs. system performance, and by determining what can be done to improve system performance (and by how much), the viability of cooling tower enhancement projects can be justified (or not). While the article focuses on evaporative cooling technologies, every process cooling project can benefit from a sound economic analysis.


Linda Becker, Associate Publisher and Editor,