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Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, has invented a water purification system called the Slingshot, which he claims can purify 97 percent of the Earth's undrinkable water. Mr. Kamen is pictured here drinking a glass of Slingshot-produced water.  (Source: CNN)

The device operates at low power and requires little maintenance. Mr. Kamen is aiming to sell the devices for $2,000 to aid organizations.  (Source: CNN)
Thirsty? Just grab a Slingshot, says Dean Kamen

Obtaining clean drinking water remains a very serious problem for people in many parts of the world.  Scientists have been hard at work trying to invent solutions to make water purification cheaper and incorporate renewable energy sources for power in remote regions.  Now, one famous inventor has cooked what he claims to be the most revolutionary water purification system to date.

Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, the Luke robotic arm, and founder of the F.I.R.S.T. robotics competition warns, "In your lifetime, my lifetime, we will see water be a really scarce, valuable commodity."

Looking to solve this problem, Mr. Kamen and his associates at DEKA Research in Manchester, New Hampshire have invented a new type of water purifier called the Slingshot, which he claims can purify 97 percent of the world's undrinkable water.

The device took him over 10 years to develop and can transform even sewage into clean drinking water.  The crux of the invention is the "vapor compression distiller" which sits between the tank of dirty liquid and the tank of clean drinking water.  This device operates at low power and boils, distills, and vaporizes liquid water from the dirty mix, leaving behind impurities in the water.  The device requires little maintenance.

The device produces 250 gallons a day, enough to support 100 people.  Mr. Kamen boasts, "It is literally like turning lead into gold.  But I believe it's more important, because you can't drink lead or gold."

The device has already been field tested in the village of Lerida in Honduras in 2006.  Two of the devices were placed in the village, and everything went perfectly, without a hitch. 

Next up, Mr. Kamen envisions mass deployment.  Currently, a Slingshot costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.  However, Mr. Kamen is looking for partners to mass produce the device.  He hopes to reduce the cost to about $2,000 a unit, and to enlist humanitarian groups to start buying the devices for regions in need.  He states, "The biggest challenge right now between this being a dream and a reality is getting committed people that really care about the state of the world's health to get involved."

Currently about 900 million of the world's 7 billion people don't have access to clean drinking water.  This leads to over 3.5 million deaths a year from water-related diseases.



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Clarifications
By bentheman939 on 9/14/2009 9:07:21 AM , Rating: -1
quote:
This device operates at low power and boils, distills, and vaporizes liquid water from the dirty mix, leaving behind impurities in the water.


I don't understand how a water vaporizer operates at low power. Doesn't water take ~4.2 J/g of energy to vaporize? Doesn't distillation takes several rounds of vapoization/cooling to achieve such high purity? Does it use a vaccum or something?

Also, the article claims the water will be 97% pure, but how pure is dirty water usually? I mean, I understand sewage sludge is probably not very pure, but wouldn't most water that is unsuitable for drinking still be mostly (ie~97% water) anyways?




RE: Clarifications
By eybear on 9/14/2009 9:11:25 AM , Rating: 2
You misunderstand....It does not make dirty water 97% pure...It is capable of turning 97% of water currently classified as dirty into pure water.

That other 3% contains whatever things that cannot be removed, and is separate from that 97%.


RE: Clarifications
By Regected on 9/14/2009 9:33:26 AM , Rating: 2
Reducing pressure also reduces the energy required for water vaporization. Try thinking outside the box before someone traps you in the box forever.

I will buy one of these if they can get the price down to the target price. Being able to collect and purify rainwater for drinking would be a great boon in times of need.


RE: Clarifications
By marvdmartian on 9/14/2009 9:51:00 AM , Rating: 2
So you're thinking he puts the water in a partial vacuum, to lower the boiling point? Only other way to lower the boiling temperature (if I recall correctly) would be to use this device in a mountainous region, with a lower atmospheric pressure (the reason why Betty Crocker, etc, have to put baking directions for mountainous regions on their packaging).
Flash evaporation/distillation is the method that the US Navy uses to make fresh water onboard their ocean going vessels, and has done so for many decades, successfully. The only question I'd have on this Slingshot device is how much power requirement it has, and how easy it will be to find a sufficient reliable source? Windmills are dependent on consistant wind, and solar cells might not give enough power without a huge array, depending on the power requirements.

Time will tell, I imagine.


RE: Clarifications
By Uncle on 9/14/2009 1:43:45 PM , Rating: 2
Excuse me but rain is already pure compared to ground water.Rain does not have to be purified.Or did I miss something.


RE: Clarifications
By jimbojimbo on 9/14/2009 2:39:09 PM , Rating: 2
Rain picks up a lot of crap during its several hundred foot drop. Lots of third world countries burn wood for heat and cooking so there's more residue in the air. I'd bet rain is clean enough drink if you had to but really I'd like it filtered.

Come on, nobody's mentioned peeing into this thing yet! Just hook it straight up to a urinal and recycle!


RE: Clarifications
By JediJeb on 9/14/2009 3:51:55 PM , Rating: 2
In most areas rain water is already clean enough to drink. Also all you would really need to clean up rain water would be a Pur Water filter pitcher or something like that. I know people who still use rainwater for drinking and only run it through a little sand and gravel before it goes into storage. I guess most who post here live in big cities where municipal water has been the norm for decades. Actually on a land areas wise basis that in not true even today as most of the land mass across the US and the world even is not covered by municipal water supplies. Though that is changing rapidly as Rural Water Associations are spreading the coverage of the water supplies.


RE: Clarifications
By Fracture on 9/14/2009 9:45:39 AM , Rating: 2
As to the "low-energy" claim -

This process would require little other energy to move, separate, and process the water other than that needed to vaporize it, meaning there is little waste. Other methods of extracting drinking water employed elsewhere such as in desalination plants (sea water --> fresh drinking water) require massive amounts of energy as they use high-pressure to force water through microfilters.


RE: Clarifications
By MrTeal on 9/14/2009 10:40:16 AM , Rating: 2
From the linked article...
quote:
The Slingshot boils, distills and vaporizes the polluted source, in turn delivering nothing but clean water to the other side. And it does it all on less electricity than it takes to run a hair dryer.


From that, I'd guess it runs on about 1kW, since a lot of hair dryers run in the 1200-1500W range. That would put daily energy consumption at 86MJ, or about 90kJ per liter. That's 90J per g.

Even if 1kW is higher than it uses, you're probably right in that the low energy claim is in comparison to other technologies. This will still take significant energy, don't expect to purifying water on a pair of AAs any time soon.


RE: Clarifications
By cornelius785 on 9/14/2009 12:16:48 PM , Rating: 1
When Dean Kamen came to my university to do talk, he mentioned this device. From my understanding, the post filtered water's heat is fed back into the system. So it take X J/g to boil water. Why not recover some portion of that expended energy instead of just letting the surroundings take up the energy? He did say startup takes fairly long to get the system going.

I also rememeber something about increasing the pressure somewhere within the system (post purification side?), which lines up with the original article at CNN ('vapor compression distiller')


RE: Clarifications
By cornelius785 on 9/14/2009 12:16:52 PM , Rating: 1
When Dean Kamen came to my university to do talk, he mentioned this device. From my understanding, the post filtered water's heat is fed back into the system. So it take X J/g to boil water. Why not recover some portion of that expended energy instead of just letting the surroundings take up the energy? He did say startup takes fairly long to get the system going.

I also rememeber something about increasing the pressure somewhere within the system (post purification side?), which lines up with the original article at CNN ('vapor compression distiller')


RE: Clarifications
By lco45 on 9/14/2009 10:21:25 PM , Rating: 1
It takes 4.2j/g to raise room temperature (15C) water by 1 degree.
You can vaporise water without heating it by reducing the pressure, or you can do a bit of both.

Luke


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates














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