skip to content

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Infrastructure and Built Environment


Francesca O’Hanlon, 3rd year FIBE CDT PhD student is also CEO of Blue Tap,  a technology company that creates products to improve access to high quality drinking water in low resource settings. Blue Tap was first created in 2013 while Francesca was doing an Engineers Without Borders UK project to find a more reliable way to chlorinate water in Mexico City. The idea to build a simple, low-cost chlorine injector was first born while she worked as a water resources engineer for Médecins Sans Frontières  providing water and sanitation to displaced populations in South Sudan.

As Francesca began her PhD in Cambridge University, access to 3D printing resources enabled her to significantly improve and simplify the design for a chlorine injector which can automatically inject the right amount of chlorine into household-level water systems. It fulfilled her aspiration to come up with a water purifying technology which is not just affordable and simple to use but will also provide a suitable long-term solution to clean water needs.

Consequently with partners Afrinspire, a Cambridge-based charity that runs development projects in East Africa, Blue Tap created a business model where 25 local plumbers and plumbing trainee students were trained to be skilled technicians to install, troubleshoot and maintain the technology.  Moreover, the community were taught business management best practice techniques to improve their overall annual income. This was in line with Francesca’s core beliefs that job creation is the best way to improve socioeconomic development.  Blue Tap ran field trials in Uganda in September 2018 and 2019 to find out how easy local plumbers could install and maintain their chlorine injector and incorporated the feedback into the redesign of the technology.

In 2017, Francesca won the National Geographic Explorers Award to come up with  innovations that can improve the sustainability of cities and was awarded grant funding for Blue Tap for a year. This was ploughed back into funding field trials together with a £6,000 grant from the Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability in 2018. Blue Tap also sells reusable water bottles to raise funding and awareness about water access issues across the globe and reduce consumption of single-use plastics,

"Mankind has accomplished so much, but we still haven’t been able to ensure that everyone has access to basic water and sanitation. I want to see it solved in my lifetime. I’m never going to stray far from working on the dual goals of improving quality of life and protecting (and understanding) the environment."

                                                                             - Francesca O'Hanlon
                                                                                Blue Tap CEO

Francesca is also fascinated by the relationship between climate change and water security which is the focus of her PhD. While they are still in the prototyping phase at Blue Tap, their aim is to begin selling the technology in emerging markets by 2021. We wish Francesca and the Blue Tap team every success!


Condensed from and credits to