Tanzanian chemical engineer Askwar Hilonga has won the top prize from the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering for his revolutionary water filter, reports the BBC.

Growing up in a rural environment in Tanzania, Hilonga reportedly saw his family suffer from a host of water-borne diseases. Therefore, when he earned his PhD in nanotechnology in South Korea, he focused his efforts on creating an effective water filter.

As he researched a number of water purification solutions, Hilonga decided on using sand and nanotechnology for his filter in order to remove “99.99 percent of micro-organisms, bacteria, and viruses.”

Portraits and documentary images of Dr. Askwar Hilonga, top 4 finalists in the inaugural Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. Dr. Askwar Hilonga has written 37 papers on nano technology and has used his nano technology knowledge to develop a water filter system that can be customised to each individual customer depending on their particular environment.  The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation aims to stimulate, celebrate and reward innovation and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. The Africa Prize encourages ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African engineers from all disciplines to apply their skills to develop scalable solutions to local challenges, highlighting the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development. Crucial commercialisation support will be awarded to a shortlist of innovative applicants through a six month period of training and mentoring. Following this period of mentorship, finalists will be invited to present at an event held in Africa and a winner will be selected to receive £25,000 along with three runners-up who will be awarded £10,000 each. - See more at: http://www.raeng.org.uk/grants-and-prizes/international-research-and-collaborations/africa-prize#sthash.iS70GWnC.dpuf

Hilonga explains, “I put water through sand to trap debris and bacteria.

“But sand cannot remove contaminants like fluoride and other heavy metals, so I put them through nano materials to remove chemical contaminants.”

Of Hilonga’s water purification filter, Head Judge Malcolm Brinded (pictured, top right) said, “His innovation could change the lives of many Africans, and people all over the world.”

And while the original cost of the filter was $130, the prize money of $38,348 will now enable Hilonga to buy his materials in bulk and therefore charge a lower price.


Hilonga adds, “For people who cannot afford water filters, we have established water stations (pictured) where people come and buy water at a very, very low, affordable price.”

In addition to Hilonga, three runner-ups received more than $15,000, after developing their business plans for six months with the Royal Academy of Engineering, which aids African engineers in creating businesses that will solve the continent’s problems.

Watch Hilonga explain his innovation here: