A mug which could filter water in an instant intrigued potter Pham Tien Bo so much that he spent 23 years researching and developing his own Vietnamese version.
VietNamNet Bridge - After spending twenty-three years at the drawing board, inventor Pham Tien Bo has finally finished his masterpiece, a traditional pot that filters water.
When did you begin making pottery?
Well, I was born in a village where everyone made a living from pottery. A child in Bat Trang Village, Gia Lam District, Ha Noi, begins making pottery at the age of three and I was no exception.
How did you begin creating filtering pottery?
When I was a child, my father told me about a special kind of mug American soldiers used during the war in Viet Nam. The mug had two parts. They would scoop water into the top section and after a moment, pure water would run into the second section and could be drunk instantly. Due to the benefits, only rangers were equipped.
Being a potter, I was fascinated by the product. I said to myself, why not try to make it? I hoped that one day I would be able to make such a vessel but it wasn’t until 1979, when I was 18, that I started the to discover the filtering mechanism used.
How did you become successful?
I consulted many veteran potters who made valuable suggestions about the kind of materials I should use. I also gained knowledge from research and my own experience in making pottery.
I had many ups and downs over 23 years until I discovered the secret in 2002. I researched and experimented many times. Sometimes success turned into failure. Once, I didn’t have enough money to continue experimenting, so I worked as a driver to earn money for my dream.
I tried different materials and finally discovered that quartz had good absorbtion ability and could be used for filtering. But that’s not enough, the porosity of the pottery needed to be increased to let the water run through. I combined it with a biological additive and that’s the secret of my success.
What was the motivation that helped you pursue your research for 23 years?
Living in the village of potters, everyone made products such as pots, bowls, cups and dishes. If I made and traded the same products as the other villagers, I would have grown tired of competing against them. I wanted to initiate my own way.
On the other hand the low price of the filtering pottery would be useful for poor people and farmers especially for those living in remote areas.
I had belief in my ability, determination and passion so I decided to pursue my dream.
Would you describe how the product filters water?
The filter’s main component is quartz pulverised into two micrometres. Its dimension is 10cm by 10cm by 10cm. It looks like a mushroom so I called it a filter mushroom. It can filter water from lakes, streams and rain into pure water. I took a sample of the filtered water to Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality and Viet Nam Institute of Industrial Chemistry, and the sample was recognised as having the same quality as bottled water.
Beside the filter mushroom, I studied other filters used in pottery such as the filter dish, bio-ceramic particles and the pressurised filter stick. They have the same filtering mechanism but different capacity and shapes.
After six months, the filter piece should be replaced. It’s really useful. For example, people in flooded areas can use the filtering products to produce pure water.
Due to the cheap materials used and that production is done in Viet Nam, the price is much lower than other filters imported from other countries.
I submitted the technology of filtering by pottery to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Resources and Environment. They sent specialists to assess my products and concluded that they were really valuable.
Foreign specialists from international organisations like UNICEF and the Netherlands Embassy to Viet Nam held the filters in high regard.
Have your products been recognised?
They have already been recognised on the market by users but actually not recognised by the authorities.
Specialists praised the technology behind, and the environmental friendliness of the filters but I am still waiting for a certificate of intellectual property. It’s very difficult and takes a lot of time and administrative formalities.
The fact that I haven’t received any support or recognition from the State apart from a certificate of merit granted by the Ha Noi People’s Committee is little encouragement. I feel self-pity that my filtering pottery hasn’t been fully appreciated.
I founded Hai Van Joint Stock Company with the aim of giving the filters a trade- mark. My filter have been ordered and used not only by the people in neighbouring communes and provinces, but also by foreign companies and organisations.
While waiting for certification by the authorities, what have you done to make the people believe in and buy your products?
I have a stall at the Bat Trang pottery market to introduce the products. I think good news spreads fast so people know about my filters. Sometimes, people doubt my word, I even give them a free filterto try out.
Now that you are working as the director of the company, do you still continue to upgrade the filters and create new products?
I don’t want to be a director, I just want to be a potter. Some foreign companies want to buy my invention but I don’t want to sell. I know when they own the key, they will produce and sell it in Viet Nam at an exorbitant price. I want to sell the technology to the Vietnamese people.
When I’m no longer a director, I will continue to research new pottery technology to continue what I have nurtured for a long time.
I still have many difficulties but I have a vehement belief that the filters will become popular in the future.