Potable Water for Global Health

2008-12 Seed Grant

To improve water quality and its availability in Nigeria, Soboyejo and his team used a multi-faceted approach that includes research, educational, and social entrepreneurial components. In August 2008, they built, equipped and began operating the first Nigerian ceramic water filter (CWF) factory in Abeokuta. They hired and trained local artisans to manufacture and sell CWFs to neighborhood residents. They also began a public health study to evaluate the impact of CWFs in the nearby rural village of Eweje.

Prior to receiving a CWF from the Abeokuta factory, each family in Eweje completed a questionnaire about its medical and family history, and trained undergraduates collected additional biomedical data from family members. Each family then received or purchased a CWF.

The health and well-being of these families have been monitored since the CWFs were distributed in January, 2009. The incidence of diarrhea in these families has essentially been eliminated during their use of CWFs. This clearly shows that the CWFs have had a substantial positive impact on the health and wellbeing of families in Eweje.

Educational Impacts

Princeton students, W. Sobojeyo and collaborators in Abeokuta, including Andrew Usoro (second from left), Megan Leftwich, Katie C. Friedman, Haoqian Chen, and Wole Soboyejo (second from right).


Drs. Soboyejo and Malatesta developed and taught a successful, introductory laboratory course, “Introduction to Biomedical Innovation and Global Health.” Modules on clay ceramic water filtration have been taught in three courses: MAE244/EGR244 “Biomedical Innovation and Global Health,” AFS375 “Science and Technology and African Development,” EGR495, “Social Entrepreneurship.”

In addition, they mentored two graduate students and seven undergraduates. Eden Full ’13 was supported to travel to Kenya to test the hydroxyapatite-doped filter.  The project also supported the senior thesis research of Nadia Tsao ’11 on Auphedeous Y-ignme (AUST-ABUJA) and the doctoral research of Yakub Ismaiel (MAE, 2011) on clay ceramic water filtration.  One undergraduate, Katie C. Friedman has received several departmental awards for her work.

Other Outcomes

In support of these projects, the team initiated scientific research on the structural and functional properties of CWFs to determine the specifications of CWFs that are best suited for point-of-use water purification. A new hydroxypatite-doped clay filter was developed. The potential for scale-up of the water filtration system was also demonstrated. A manuscript entitled A Field Study on the Use of Clay Ceremic Water Filters and Influences on the General Health in Nigeria (PDF) was published.

Future Directions:

Next year, they will interact with two more CWF factories, similar to the Abeokuta factory, one in Burkina Faso and the second in Kenya. To assess the impact of the CWFs on public health, the team will enroll sixty local residents each from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and a second location in Mpala, Kenya, to conduct public health studies similar to that in progress in Eweje. In addition, Princeton students in the Global Development Network (GDN) will explore use of a franchise model to establish similar factories around the world. Their future research will be expanded to develop and characterize novel adsorptive surfaces for the removal of nano-scale viruses and chemical contaminants by the CWF.

Participating Department

Related Media and Press Coverage



Winston Soboyejo
Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Research Associates

  • Karen Malatesta

Graduate Students

  • Megan Leftwich
  • Ismaiel Yakub

Undergraduate Students