Big ideas can sometimes start small. Two industrial design students have designed a prototype portable solar water purification system that could save countless lives at a cost of just a few dollars per unit.
The bag is the brainchild of Ryan Lynch and partner Marcus Triest whose work was profiled by our CNET colleague Tim Hornyak on Sunday. Lynch's solar bag is a very clever design that uses the sun's UV rays to eliminate harmful biological contaminants.
Water is treated as UV rays pass through the bag's translucent polyethylene outer layer; the inner lining is black to accelerate the filtration process with heat. Up to 2.5 gallons are made drinkable every six hours, according to its Web site. The overall design resembles a common messenger bag.
It is also as much functional as it is fashionable. The bag is inspired by "Ziploc" food storage products, and can be laid flat to expose water to more UV rays. The inventors say that the Solar Bag also dramatically improves upon the localized water purification standard of two days sub-saharan Africa.
"People were already doing this with plastic bottles (2 liter coke bottles, for example) on rooftop, but this takes 2 days for it to become drinkable. Our polyethaline is a lot thinner than that of a 2 liter, and the black backing expedites the process," Lynch said in a follow=up conversation.
(In the developed world solar bags can mean a backpack that uses solar cells to charge a back-up battery for your smartphone. #firstworldproblems.)
They are not the creators of this process, but I'm very impressed by Lynch and Triest's work. It is innovation reminiscent of the LifeStraw, a portable water filter that resembles a novelty drinking straw, and is much simpler and less costly than large scale solar water purification systems.
Oregon's Puralytics presently sells an even more advanced solar bag that uses a nanotechnology coated mesh insert that purifies water through photochemical processes and UV light. Sunlight 'activates' the mesh. It retails for around $74 on Amazon.com.
CNET says that the duo is seeking investors to mass produce the Solar Bag, and estimate that its cost will be less than US$5. An estimated 3.575 million people die each year due from waterborne disease each year. It's amazing how something so simple could mean the difference between life and death.
(Image credits: byrye.com)
Related on SmartPlanet: