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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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RE: Lets assume its not vaporware
By JediJeb on 9/14/2009 3:27:06 PM , Rating: 3
Actually it would be a rain barrel or cistern that collects water from the roof. Most of the older houses where I live have those and people only buy water during very dry periods.

Wells are drilled or dug in the ground and get water from rain on the ground.

While most people living in cities today take it for granted that the water company pumps water to your houses, those of us living in rural areas still obtain water from rain collection or wells. To be honest I would rather drink that then most of the bottled water for sale. My job is testing drinking water for anything from minerals to bacteria to pesticides and when I test the water from my parents well it is much cleaner than what I see from water plants or bottled water.

RE: Lets assume its not vaporware
By Tewt on 9/14/2009 4:45:02 PM , Rating: 3

I was always curious about this. Do you collect enough to last the whole year? How do you handle dishes, clothing and bathing? i.e. How careful do you need to be in uses other than drinking? What about filtering the water? Today, we have so many high-tech options, I am also curious what can be done to filter your water if there was no industry to support said options.

Is it really so expensive for each home to have some water collection? I'm boggled why we do not see that in places where water must be shipped or why it is not more prevalent in places that have experienced multiple water shortages over the years(like here in San Diego currently experiencing mandatory water rationing).

RE: Lets assume its not vaporware
By JediJeb on 9/15/2009 11:37:52 AM , Rating: 2
In Kentucky it usually rains often enough that if you have a 1000-1600 gallon cistern you rarely need to buy water. Even a small house of about 1200 square feet has enough roof area to collect enough water from rainfall. In dry areas this would not be used as the main water supply for a home, but could be used for supplimental supply to offset some of the cost of water. Filtering is usually done with a small box of sand and gravel to filter out debris from the roof and it is best to not have trees over the roof to help keep it clean. If it needs to be disinfected a little bleach can be added or a small chlorinater unit or UV system can be used.

When used for washing cloths or bathing, using rain water reduces the amount of soap you use since it is very soft water.

I don't think it is used so much today because of the inate fear people have of germs. I know people who were over 80 years old who never had any other water source than this and they were almost never sick their entire lives. Of course these people did not live anywhere near a large population center so maybe the rainfall was a little cleaner but baring severe pollution such as in highly smog ridden places, I don't think the water quality would be bad at all, and of course you could use a filter pitcher to clean it up. People today don't want the personal responsibility of making sure their water is clean, they want to push the responsibility off on the government. It also releives them of the responsibility of maintaining an adiquate supply of water, where as with a cistern you must keep a check on how much you have and ration yourself when necessary. The people I know who are using this system now will either purchase water from a municipal source or get it from local springs when there is not enough rain. 50 to 100 or more years ago this is exactly how people lived, we have just become spoiled by easy and abundant access to water and usually waste more than we should because of it.

RE: Lets assume its not vaporware
By Tewt on 9/15/2009 8:20:57 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you for the reply JediJeb. I agree and am also guilty of that. I would like to become more responsible.

The fear of germs sounds very true. I asked my father who is 76 that was raised on a farm about drinking raw milk. I don't remember the exact terms but he used to skim some film off the top and they drank it raw for YEARS. No one ever got sick. He said the main problem was the cleanliness of where the cow lived. He became a microbiologist and part of the health department(in Kern County) so would regularly check milk. I still got the impression from our conversation he was for pasteurization in certain circumstances but it does not change the fact he never got sick from raw milk.

Also, interesting that you mentioned bleach since the water preservers I saw for sale are essentially the same thing.

Many other things I would like to say but I'm glad there are still people in our country that know how to do things for themselves. Hopefully I can become one of them. I do not like the feeling of being too dependent on external entities.

RE: Lets assume its not vaporware
By Zoomer on 9/16/2009 6:06:57 PM , Rating: 2
I believe boiling the water actually kills bacteria! Oh, the horror!

RE: Lets assume its not vaporware
By Tewt on 9/16/2009 7:51:52 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I was hoping someone would mention boiling water. As long as you can build a fire, this seems to be the option if you do not have chemicals(i.e. bleach) or high-tech filters available.

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