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Keys native wants to help develop nations

WaterPURE uses concentrated solar technology and evacuated tubes designed to absorb sunlight and convert it into usable heat.
WaterPURE uses concentrated solar technology and evacuated tubes designed to absorb sunlight and convert it into usable heat.

Key West native Lucy Baron wants to leave her mark on the world one water drop at a time.

Baron, 22, who graduated in May from Appalachian State University in North Carolina, has created a water purification system that can also serve as a solar-powered cooking device, benefiting rural communities in developing countries.

It’s called WaterPURE (short for Water Purification Under Radiant Environments), which has the potential to curtail the spread of disease in developing countries caused by unsafe drinking water. Furthermore, it could help make the cooking process healthier for humans and less destructive to the environment.

“In rural communities of developing countries, clean water is not readily accessible,” she said. “Also, food is traditionally cooked indoors using biomass; this causes deforestation surrounding the communities, and it produces smoke that especially affects the health of women and children.”

“I studied abroad in Peru last summer. While traveling in the country I saw all these desolate areas. As a responsible global citizen, I thought it was staggering that people didn’t have access to healthy water,” said Baron, who moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., when she was 10 with her dad Elliot, who used to own a restaurant in the Southernmost City.

“It’s still in the development stage. I only have the system I’ve been working on. I have modifications I want to do, maybe adding a waste recovery system, things like that,” she said.

WaterPURE uses concentrated solar technology and evacuated tubes designed to absorb sunlight and convert it into usable heat to pasteurize contaminated water sustainably and to enable cooking that reduces indoor smoke and resource depletion.

“It’s scaled for a family,” Baron said. So will she try to get backing to enlarge her effort?

“At this point, I’m not sure,” she said. Her immediate plans are going to graduate school at Villanova University though she will remain involved with WaterPURE’s development..

“I think we’ll be adding another person to the group. It was just me and my faculty mentor,” she said. “So another student at Appalachian will work on it.”

Baron earned a bachelor’s degree in appropriate technology from Appalachian with a minor in physics. She will study sustainable engineering as a graduate student at Villanova, focusing her work on alternative and renewable energy. Her goal is to work for an engineering firm that makes the kind of sustainable technology that reduces anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Keynoter Editor Larry Kahn contributed to this report.

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