Constructing Field Expedient Solar Water Pasteurizers from Junk

Marie C. Johnson*, Andrew R. Pfluger
Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY 10996, USA.

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© 2013 Johnson and Pfluger

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY 10996, USA; Tel: 845-938-4855; Fax: 845-938-3339;


We explored repurposing discarded materials to construct simple, field expedient, solar heating devices capable of heating drinking water to water pasteurization temperatures. Results of different test configurations quickly constructed from junk material indicate important design parameters to include maximizing exposed container surface area and using transparent glass and dark absorbent material inside the solar heater box. The optimal configuration heated water to 69 °C in a few hours demonstrating that a field expedient, zero cost solar heater capable of pasteurizing water (65 °C) can be quickly assembled from discarded material. Translating these key design parameters, rather than the exact design itself, to people in developing countries via relief organizations could help improve drinking water quality, reduce respiratory distress from indoor biomass burning, and potentially reduce the time and household income devoted to acquiring traditional biomass fuels. Organizations that operate in austere or disaster prone regions where safe drinking water may be unavailable may also benefit from knowing these design principles.

Keywords: Drinking water, water pasteurization, solar heating, adaptive reuse, disaster relief, field expedient.