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Liquid Filtration throughout History

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

Liquid filtration doesn't just provide us with clean water to stay healthy, it is also an essential process that is applied across many industries. It has been used throughout history and today, we as consumers actually use them daily without even realising it.

Let's take a look at how liquid filtration has been used and developed through the times:

2000 BC: Early Sanskrit and Greek texts contain the earliest known recordings of water filtration. Boiling and straining water with gravel and sand was thought to be the best form of purification. This was also the period when people thought the taste of water determined its purity, unaware that water that tasted fine could still contain harmful microorganisms and substances.

1500 BC: Egyptians used coagulation as a method for water filtration, where the chemical alum was placed in water and small particles would come together to form larger particles so that they can be strained. This process of water treatment has been depicted in hieroglyphs on the tomb of Ramses II.

400 BC: Greek physician Hippocrates saw the importance of water and health. He also associated the taste and smell of water to its purity. He experimented and then created the Hippocratic Sleeve, where boiled water was poured into a cloth bag to sieve out impurities.

200 BC: The Romans built aqueducts which used gravity to supply water to their communities. Around this time, Archimedes invented a water screw that allowed them to move water from low to high ground. This device is still in use today in several northern European towns.

1st BC: People used various methods to mask the bad taste and smell of water. Diophanes of Nicaea, a Greek agricultural writer, suggested to add crushed laurel (a type of shrub) into water.

Little progress was made in the area of water filtration and purification for the rest of history, until...

1627:  Sir Frances Bacon experimented with removing the salt from seawater, a process known as desalination. He aimed to remove salt particles by filtering seawater through sand, but was unsuccessful. Even so, he had inspired other scientists to experiment and continue to advance filtration technologies.

1676: Dutch spectacle maker, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, was obsessed with magnification. He experimented with grinding lenses to make microscopes, which led him to the discovery of microorganisms in water. This gave scientists a new insight - that taste alone wasn't enough to determine the purity of water, and that harmful microorganisms had to be removed.

1746: The first patented water filter system was developed using a combination of wool, sponge and charcoal to remove sediment and particles. By the end of the century, Robert Thom developed the first water treatment plant in Scotland, using slow sand filtration to remove 99% of the bacteria in water. For the first time ever, an entire city had access to safe drinking water.

1829: Chelsea Waterworks, the first water treatment plant in London, started to provide clean water for every resident of the area and was used as a model for other treatment plants. This led to the Metropolis Water Act of 1852 which required all the water supplied to London to be treated by slow sand filtration.

1854: Cholera outbreak occurs in London. John Snow was the only scientist who was able to pinpoint that cholera was transmitted through water using a microscope. He also found that chlorine could be used to purify contaminated water. The UK government introduced chlorine and slow sand filtration as the standard for water filtration, eliminating diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery. This regulation soon spread to other developed countries.

1863: The Doulton family in UK created the first carbon cartridge type filter, followed by micro porous ceramic (diatomaceous earth) cartridges which could remove bacteria with 99% efficiency. The military, Crown Agents, hospitals and homes started using Doulton filters.

1900s: In 1903, water softening was invented and became the preferred method for desalination. The US also introduced chlorination treatment of water to major cities.

1914: Drinking water standards were created. By 1974, the Safe Water Act (SDWA) was passed, guaranteeing every person the right to safe drinking water.

Water filtration has since evolved, from playing a key role in keeping diseases at bay to ensuring the purity of semi conductors in manufacturing hard disks. Green Synergy Engineering is the sole distributor of Graver Technologies filters in Malaysia. Contact us to know more.

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