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Your Input is Needed for Water Purifier Design!
      #74297 - Sun Feb 04 2007 09:51 AM


I am an engineering student currently working on a design project involving water purification. The end product is intended to provide a source of fresh drinking water for victims of natural disasters when electric and water service is unavailable. If our design is good enough, it could actually be produced and made available in the future.

The idea is to have a unit that could purify flood, rain, ocean or lake water to be completely safe to drink. In the process, odor and bad taste could be greatly reduced or eliminated. To be practical for disaster relief, it will require no electricity or batteries, instead relying on human-power. This could be a foot pump or crank, for example.

If you would be willing to answer a few questions about how you think our product should work, it will greatly help my team make good design decisions!

1. Size
Would it be better to have a a very small "personal use" unit? Something larger but suitable for a family? Or a very large unit that could handle the needs of a large number of people, but would be sized (and priced) such that perhaps only government agencies would have them?

2. Cost
How much would you be willing to spend? Consider your preference for size, as a personal unit will almost certainly be less expensive than a family sized unit. If you think a "utility-sized" unit is appropriate, then this expense would not be a personal investment, but could effect taxes, etc.

3. Lifespan
Would you prefer a smaller, less expensive unit that may have a limited number of uses, or a more robust unit that could "last a lifetime"?

4. Effort
Would you be willing to devote a larger amount of time and effort using a device that purified more water faster? Or does a unit that works slowly, but allows you to continue with other activities make more sense? How much work is too much?

5. Production
How much water do you expect from such a unit each day? Just enough to drink? Would you use it for cooking needs, too? Are there other things that you need pure water for that my group may not have considered?

Feel free to share any other thoughts you have! Thank you in advance for your time.

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Re: Your Input is Needed for Water Purifier Design! [Re: MickeyM]
      #74298 - Sun Feb 04 2007 10:35 AM

Wow, what a great project. I'm an engineering undergrad, so I get a kick out of these things, too. As far as your questions go...

The size of the device, for a person or family, should be large enought to get about a dozen twelve oz drinks from it per use. That way, even for a decent sized family, you wouldnt have to be using it all the time ( And I was surprised to find that 144oz = 4259mL = 0.15ft^3 = roughly 6.5in x 6.5in x 6.5in, that seems pretty small for just the water containment. And yea, I should just be using metric, but I visualize amounts much better in my native unit system.)

I'd be easily willing to pay $100-$150 for something that could purify water without electricty at the above amount. Above that would be getting a little iffy.

If the device lasted through 2-3 hurricane seasons I'd be very pleased with the lifespan.

As far as effort goes, too much effort is when you you need the purified water to rehydrate you from the work you did to get the water safe. I would have no problem as long as I wasent sweating and tired afterwards. I'd be willing to wait if it was pretty easy, but going quickly without exerting too much energy would be nice.

If this device worked well Im sure people would use it for almost all thier water unless they had other alternatives. For ex, I would probably drink my bottled water first, but I wouldnt use that bottled water to cook with, clean or water animals/plants, I'd use the purified water.

In all, it seems like a great idea. I wish you the best in the design process and hope you come up with one that works well.

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Re: Your Input is Needed for Water Purifier Design! [Re: Myles]
      #74301 - Wed Feb 07 2007 11:47 AM

Thanks for your input! I do have a couple of follow up questions:

1) You mention drinking bottled water first. What are your expectations of the water quality from the product? For example, strictly filtered water might be perfectly healthy, but cloudy or have smell/taste. Distilled water would be as pure as (if not more pure that) bottled "mineral water". What is acceptable? Would you pay more for a unit that made "better" water?

2) How important are asthetics? Would a unit that looked like a scientific instrument be more or less desirable than something slick and consumer oriented? (Think Brita filters ... clean lines, plastic case, blue and white, etc.)

3) How important is portability and how do you define it? Small but heavy would be easy to store, but may be difficult to carry around. Something that one person could lift, but was too big for a car trunk (you need a pick-up) is still technically "portable" but may not meet your needs.

4) Product life has many definitions. A product could make unlimited gallons, but not be re-uasable in the sense that once stored for some time would no longer purify effectively. (After a disaster, it would meet unlimited need, but you would need to replace it once utilities were restored.) Another design might be usable over and over again, but durability is limited to, say, a hundred gallons over it's life. (It would survive mutiple disasters, but you would need to be aware of how much you used it, and plan accordingly.) What do you feel is the more desirable goal?

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Ed DunhamAdministrator
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Re: Your Input is Needed for Water Purifier Design! [Re: MickeyM]
      #74302 - Wed Feb 07 2007 09:54 PM

I don't know if this will discourage you or not, but in the backpacking community this type of gear has been available for decades. Just do a search on Backpacking Equipment and look for water purifiers or water filters. Here is an example:

Water Purifiers

I've used one for years - I think its called First Need. A few years ago, 2 of these units provided all of the drinking water and cooking water for 12 people on a 10-day backpacking trip. Each unit weighs about a half pound, filters down to 0.1 micron, produces a quart of drinking water in less than a minute (hand pump operated), and has a filter capacity of 200 gallons (and has a replaceable filter). With a 0.1 micron filter, your talking ultra pure water - nothing gets through that kind of a filter. At the time, cost was about $60. A good one today can probably still be found for about $75. My unit still works and I keep it in my hurricane supply box.

Edited by danielw (Wed Feb 14 2007 02:01 AM)

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Re: Your Input is Needed for Water Purifier Design! [Re: Ed Dunham]
      #74303 - Thu Feb 08 2007 01:36 PM

Not discouraging at all. We have looked at all of those solutions. They work well to remove particulate and organics from water. They cannot remove disolved solids or liquid chemicals, though. In a camping environment that is fine, but the ground water in dissaster areas would contain things they do not remove. Our solution will likely be less convenient, but far more thorough.

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Re: Your Input is Needed for Water Purifier Design! [Re: MickeyM]
      #74313 - Tue Feb 13 2007 09:23 PM

Smelly/cloudy water would be perfectly fine if it was clean enough to drink - even if clear water would be perferable. I'd definently pay more for a unit that made clearer/cleaner water.

Asthetics wouldnt matter much to me as long as it worked, but making it look slick cant hurt.

Portability would be nice for personal use. Something small enough and light enough to carry around yourself and move around to where ever needed.

As far as durability goes, something I could save for multiple disasters or years without disasters would be perferable.

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