Dean Kamen: Slingshot Water Purification System

05 Energy, 12 Water
Dean Kamen
Dean Kamenen

The Slingshot water purification system was invented by Dean Kamen, the guy who invented the Segway PT. His purpose was to develop a system that was inexpensive to manufacture that could also provide a high volume of purified water. His target market seems to be Third World countries, although he clearly hopes that the wealthy countries of the world will help supply them with this vitally needed resource. He thinks he can get the price down to about $1,000 to $2,000. And he estimates that it could provide enough drinking water for a village of about 100 people.

The Future of Water: The Slingshot

Dean Kamen is possibly the world’s greatest living inventor. Although he has been well-known among futurists for years, he rose to wider fame when he invented the Segway in 2001. His inventions also include the world’s first wheelchair capable of climbing and descending stairs, and the world’s first drug infusion pump which is used to provide diabetics with insulin on an as-needed basis. Kamen is remarkable because unlike most inventors, he does not work under the umbrella of a large corporation, university, or government agency. He is truly a DIY innovator.

Click on Image to Enlarge
Click on Image to Enlarge

Kamen’s latest invention sets the stage to change the lives of billions of people over the next decade. His new water purification system, dubbed the Slingshot, is far cheaper and more accessible than anything that has come before it. The refrigerator-sized Slingshot is capable of taking “anything wet,” in Kamen’s words, and transforming it into water that is so pure that it can be both consumed and used in sterile injections. It can convert ocean water, polluted water, or raw sewage from an outhouse into pure drinking water.

It works by heating the “raw” water to a boiling point, compressing it under just the right amount of pressure, then allowing it to condense and cool in a separate chamber of the machine. The technique is known as vapor compression distillation. The amount of energy that is required to power the machine is equivalent to the amount it takes to run a small coffee-maker, and enough energy is left over to allow the users to charge cell phones and other electronic devices. It can run on any source of energy, including cow dung. Since the parts of the world where clean water is in short supply tend to also be the places where electricity is in short supply, the ability to power the machine on cow dung is very important for its success. It means that it can work in societies which do not have any energy infrastructure in place.

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Phi Beta Iota:  We do not lack for water (e.g. sea water, dirty water).  We lack for the correct combination of low energy high volume affordable desalination and decontamination options.  Those now appear to be multiplying.