A SCIENTIST on Tyneside has won a top international award for groundbreaking technology which has saved nearly 30,000 lives by purifying contaminated water and making it safe to drink.
Dr Phil Souter worked at P&G’s Longbenton plant to develop the powder technology that when mixed into polluted water removes dirt and kills harmful bacteria and viruses.
His pioneering work has landed P&G the coveted 2012 Economist Social Innovation Award, which he received on the company’s behalf.
A panel of global judges hailed his innovation as “beyond inspiration”, honouring P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water Programme as a major development. The programme works with partners in more than 65 countries to share its P&G Purifier of Water packets, which contain a patented powdered technology that transforms dirty and contaminated water into clean, drinkable water.
Dr Souter, who has worked for P&G for 15 years, invented the powder technology. He first began working on the innovation when he was a research scientist, studying the possibility of recycling laundry water to help with water shortages.
“I started to think about whether the bigger opportunity might be to clean up water people were drinking to make it safe to use,” said Dr Souter.
“Combining the technical insights from the wash water recycling with the consumer insights from my travel experiences, led me to believe that I might have found an opportunity where I could actually make a difference.”
Now called P&G Purifier of Water, the powder comes in small packets, and when stirred into 10 litres of dirty water, causes heavy metals, dirt, and parasites to pull together, then fall to the bottom of the container which can be strained through a filter cloth. After 20 minutes, the disinfectant in the powder leaves the water clean enough to drink.
“My work on this project has been a source of both personal pride and humble understanding, as I’ve come to realise that every once in a while, life puts us in a position – opens us a door – to make a difference,” said Dr Souter.
P&G president and chairman Bob McDonald, said: “As a company, we are both honoured by the recognition and inspired by our employees and global partners who have worked to deliver more than five billion litres of clean drinking water to families in developing countries, helping save nearly 30,000 lives.”
Dr Souter is currently a visiting professor in the chemistry department at Durham University and has recently been admitted as a Fellow at the Royal Society of Chemistry.