17 January 2010

Clean Water for Haiti and the Third World

HydroWell Water Purification System

With over fifteen years of research, scientists have developed the world’s first commercially viable forward osmosis membrane for emergency desalination and water filtration. This membrane is used by NASA, the US Department of Defense, the United States Coast Guard and is now available to the public for use in emergency desalination situations.

...Forward osmosis products out-perform the competition in these situations, because unlike other filter or purification technologies, they are virtually unaffected by the presence of mud or other suspended solids in the contaminated source water. Using an advanced membrane filter, our systems offer the highest purity available from any personal water filter. Yet because they operate passively without pressure, they do not clog, allowing virtually any water source to be used to provide clean, safe drink. _ImpactLab_via_SeaPack

Dean Kamen's Water Purifier

It is designed to supply a village with 1,000 liters/day of clean water.

You can use any water source — ocean, puddle, chemical waste site, hexavalent chrome, arsenic, poison, 50 gallon drum of urine.

The Slingshot (as its called) can use half the waste heat (450 watts) from a sterling engine electrical generator (prototype also being designed by Kamen’s company) to boil its water.

The heat put into the water is recovered with a "counter-flow heat exchanger" and recycled to heat the next batch of water (that is part of the novel bit).
Slingshot will be less then 60 lbs. The prototype slingshot was hand-built for $100K. The goal is to get production units down to $1,000 to $2,000. The sterling engine, used as an electrical generator, can produce about 200 watts of power (it will never be more then 20 percent efficient) and 800 watts of waste heat (the waste heat that slingshot uses).

Later sources say the sterling engine can generate 1 kilowatt or enough power for 70 high-efficiency light bulbs. (CNN)
The sterling engine can run on anything that burns, propane or even cow dung. (CNN)
The slingshot is a David and Goliath reference aimed at putting water and power back in the hands of the individuals. (AP) _Wired

Perhaps 5 children out of a hundred from the third world have the potential learn to live in a modern high-tech world. But the rest will need good, reliable ways to produce clean drinking water -- both in emergencies and during the long stretches of ordinary life in between.

We have heard that Haiti is "unlucky." That is true in a trivial sense. Haiti is unlucky in the same way that Zimbabwe is unlucky, Darfur is unlucky, or that Detroit is unlucky. Haiti is unlucky enough to be populated by people who are unable to change the ordinary, mundane circumstances of their lives.

Such parts of the third world will always need the help of those who are capable of generating change, innovation, and improved circumstances. Clean water is a good place to start.

Lifesaver Water Bottle via Brian Wang


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