Portable solar device creates potable water

Mar 22, 2011
Jon Liow

(PhysOrg.com) -- By harnessing the power of the sun, a Monash University graduate has designed a simple, sustainable and affordable water-purification device, which has the potential to help eradicate disease and save lives.

The Solarball, developed as Mr Jonathan Liow’s final year project during his Bachelor of Industrial Design, can produce up to three litres of clean water every day. The spherical unit absorbs sunlight and causes dirty water contained inside to evaporate. As evaporation occurs, contaminants are separated from the water, generating drinkable condensation. The condensation is collected and stored, ready for drinking.

Liow’s design was driven by a need to help the 900 million people around the world who lack access to safe drinking water. Over two million children die annually from preventable causes, triggered largely by contaminated . It is an increasing problem in developing nations due to rapid urbanisation and population growth.

‘After visiting Cambodia in 2008, and seeing the immense lack of everyday products we take for granted, I was inspired to use my design skills to help others,’ Mr Liow said.

Mr Liow’s simple but effective design is user-friendly and durable, with a weather-resistant construction, making it well suited to people in hot, wet, tropical climates with limited access to resources.

‘The challenge was coming up with a way to make the device more efficient than other products available, without making it too complicated, expensive, or technical,’ Mr Liow said.

Mr Liow, and a working prototype of his Solarball, was featured on ABC1’s ‘The New Inventors’. The product has been named as a finalist in the 2011 Australian Design Awards - James Dyson Award. It will also be exhibited at the Milan International Design Fair (Salone Internazionale del Mobile) in April 2011.

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User comments : 34

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DigiMc
2 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2011
According to http://www.allabo...on.html, this would leave chlorine and pesticides in the water, and:

"(distillation) provides mineral-free water that can be quite dangerous to the bodys system when ingested, due to its acidity. Acidic drinking water strips bones and teeth of valuable and essential mineral constituents.
Furthermore, distillation is an incredibly wasteful process. Typically, 80% of the water is discarded with the contaminants, leaving only one gallon of purified water for every five gallons treated."

So... this may not kill as quickly as a disease, but the end result is similar?
kaasinees
1 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2011
In fact, the sun is a good way to kill bacteria(uv radiation).
No need to boil.
LariAnn
2.5 / 5 (4) Mar 22, 2011
@DigiMc: This Solarball works by solar heat evaporating water, then allowing it to condense, just like the natural evaporation/condensation cycle that yields rain water. Since, effectively, rain water has been distilled, does that mean it is dangerous to drink?
Husky
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 22, 2011
well i suppose throwing in some clipped toenails will add calcium to lower the acidity of the water
holoman
1.8 / 5 (11) Mar 22, 2011
Any technology that can make our energy future cleaner and greener should be pursued.

Of course, oil, coal and other hydrocarbon companies will use all their economic might to kill any application that can
provide clean energy for the future. Fact.
Necoras
5 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2011
@DigiMc This is only an issue if the water is contaminated with a substance which has a boiling point lower than water. So oil, chlorine, alcohol, etc. It's very unlikely that these will be issues in developing nations.

As for the rest of the information they're providing, I have no idea where they got it. Distilled water is, by definition, neither acidic nor alkaline. It's a 7 on the Ph scale. In practice it absorbs a bit of CO2 from the atmosphere, but it's going to be nowhere nearly as acidic as your average soda.

As for being wasteful, depending on the design of the device, the water will evaporate until all of it is gaseous, with near 100% of it being available for use after condensation.

In an environment where the only source of water is a contaminated stream, anything that can be filled and left outside and then produce clean water for a day is a godsend.
bugmenot23
5 / 5 (5) Mar 22, 2011
Evaporation / condensation is NOT equivalent to distillation!
Necoras
5 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2011
@holoman

Did you even bother to read the article? Or skim the headline? This has nothing to do with clean energy. This device purifies water on a small scale to provide 2 liters of drinking water for an individual for one day. Any given person will need the water from 1.5 to 2 of these every day. It's a great idea, but it has *absolutely nothing* to do with a "cleaner greener future."

This is about allowing those who live in abject poverty to live healthier lives. Stop spreading your conspiracy based FUD and do some research. Your life is made possible by hydrocarbons in the plastic in your computer, the polyester in your clothes, and the fertilizer that grows just about all of the food you've ever eaten. Get off of your high horse and go live in the dirt with the people this is designed to help if you're really so concerned with energy usage. Have fun getting to Africa in your wind powered, wooden boat.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (3) Mar 22, 2011
He should have made a compartment where the dirty water goes...
Necoras
4 / 5 (4) Mar 22, 2011
@bugmenot23 Um, yes it is? It's exactly the same thing, only slower because you have a more indirect heat source.
Shaffer
4.8 / 5 (4) Mar 22, 2011
I would buy at least 2 of these if I could find them. I would imagine the trick is the baffle between the bottom and top compartments...it's probably somthing simple like an upside-down funnel...hmmm...instructable time? Making the bottom part black is probably a nice key to it working well.

This reminds me of the WWII Naval "Solar Purifiers" that were included in their life-rafts.
Shaffer
4.8 / 5 (4) Mar 22, 2011
@DigiMc: This Solarball works by solar heat evaporating water, then allowing it to condense, just like the natural evaporation/condensation cycle that yields rain water. Since, effectively, rain water has been distilled, does that mean it is dangerous to drink?


Rain water hasn't been distilled, it has been evaporated and condensed...It picks up inpurities from the air on the way back down, and lots of them. If you're going to drink rain water do it after it has rained continuously for 10-15 min, then start collecting it.

If you don't understand evaporation VS boiling(distilling), go here...

http://www.learne...er2.html
Bitflux
5 / 5 (5) Mar 22, 2011
damn nice invention, its simple yet brilliant. Way to go Mr. Liow, i wish that more people would act like you.
Atoms
4.8 / 5 (5) Mar 22, 2011
Not New!

At least thirty years ago the DoD had floating, inflatable, solar stills for use with life rafts.
gfbtbb
5 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2011
In less then 10 minutes I have found the design dating back to march 1943. It may be as old as 1870. They are for sale all over the net under "Life raft supplies".
For a good story of how to live with one read the book "Adrift". It seems they never perform as well as advertised.
Paljor
not rated yet Mar 22, 2011
thats desalination. not the same.
hylozoic
1 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2011
What makes the above better than this?
http://www.landfa...mss.html
pauljpease
4 / 5 (4) Mar 22, 2011
@holoman

Did you even bother to read the article? Or skim the headline? This has nothing to do with clean energy. This device purifies water on a small scale to provide 2 liters of drinking water for an individual for one day. Any given person will need the water from 1.5 to 2 of these every day. It's a great idea, but it has *absolutely nothing* to do with a "cleaner greener future."


Guess you didn't read it either, or learn how to think critically. Sorry for the ad hominem attack, I only use it against those who use it against innocent members of this community.

First of all, it's THREE liters per day, not two. Second of all, if you don't use this ball to get your fresh water, you will get it another way, probably a way that involves the use of non-solar energy. So in fact it does have something to do with a a greener future, since production of water with less use of toxic resources or fossil fuels would be greener, wouldn't it?
pauljpease
not rated yet Mar 22, 2011
thats desalination. not the same.


Um, it's exactly the same. Salt is a contaminant, so desalination is just removing a contaminant. The design of this solar ball is EXACTLY analogous to a "solar still", or solar powered desalination device.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2011
What makes the above better than this?
Perhaps it's not going to cost $200?
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2011
@pauljpease,

Desalination per se doesn't guarantee removal of bacteria and parasites. Those are the real killer in the developing world.

A solar still, aside from desalinating, pretty much guarantees biological decontamination, by design.
CSharpner
5 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2011
Of course, oil, coal and other hydrocarbon companies will use all their economic might to kill any application that can
provide clean energy for the future. Fact.

This is insanity. If there's money in it, they'll want a piece of the action too. These "big energy" conspiracy theories are ridiculous and cooked up and spread by shallow thinking, small minded, uneducated, naive ideologs.
CSharpner
not rated yet Mar 22, 2011
Not New!

At least thirty years ago the DoD had floating, inflatable, solar stills for use with life rafts.

Yep. You beat me to it. I've seen these on TV many times going back to the late 80's or early 90's. I thought everyone knew of these. I'm really surprized so many people were not aware of this old invention and technique... so many that it could be reinvented and make it all they way to news sites like this one before anyone points it out.
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Mar 23, 2011
"(distillation) provides mineral-free water that can be quite dangerous to the bodys system when ingested, due to its acidity." - Idiocy

Pure distilled water is by definition perfectly neutral, neither an acid nor a base.

braindead
5 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2011
It's elegant simple and addresses a real need. I am sure the inventor of his ball didn't claim he discovered the solar still - it is the design and the objective that are novel and he is rightly praised for finding a new, practical use for an old principle using appropriate technology.
I could even see this being constructed at micro-industry level using recycled materials that currently litter much of the developing world. If you think contamination might be a problem then you should see what people have to drink right now where I live. While boiling (and using possibly unaffordable energy) might destroy pathogens, lots of other contaminants remain in the water which the evaporative process will largely remove. As another contributor has pointed out UV in sunlight is also a good killer of pathogens. Indeed it is recommended in places where water may be suspect, and boiling beyond financial capabilities, to improve it by leaving it in the sun in a clear plastic bottle.
hush1
3 / 5 (2) Mar 23, 2011
DoD. Hmmm. Sometimes "re-prioritizing" 'needs', benefits everyone at some point in time. Especially after 'proprietorial' 'claims' expired. Doesn't always work, though, - when weapons are your first priority.

It's elegant simple and addresses a real need. I am sure the inventor of his ball didn't claim he discovered the solar still - it is the design and the objective that are novel and he is rightly praised for finding a new, practical use for an old principle using appropriate technology.


Yes.
Physmet
5 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2011
"The challenge was coming up with a way to make the device more efficient than other products available, without making it too complicated, expensive, or technical, Mr Liow said."

In other words, he already admitted that the idea was not new. His goal was simple and cheap.
Gthedon
5 / 5 (2) Mar 23, 2011
thats a post apocalyptic gold-mine right there lol
Mayday
1 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2011
Be careful with the claims Re: disease. The key to use will be in keeping the outer surface of the inner shell and the inner surface of the outer shell biologically clean. A very difficult task in the environment shown.
bludvigs
5 / 5 (1) Mar 23, 2011
Why complicate matters when ordinary plastic drinking water bottles work better and can be harvested as rubbish? See: almashriq.hiof.no/water/
Kimberbang
5 / 5 (1) Mar 24, 2011
To anybody that has poo poohed this idea. I supposed diarrhea or some worse disease is much healthier to endure? geesh!!!
resinoth
not rated yet Mar 28, 2011
every home, even in the 1st world, should have one of these things, for drinking water. I spend $5-10 a month on screw-on water filters for my spigot at home, and even then I've got a changing curve of effectiveness (worsens with age) and it's not getting every type of thing out, which I believe this type of design does. I always thought, in the back of my mind, there was a lot to peeing in a hole and distilling it into drinking water. Never thought to market it for any type of contamination. This is highly laudable work, in my opinion.
JNB
Shaffer
not rated yet Apr 04, 2011
"(distillation) provides mineral-free water that can be quite dangerous to the bodys system when ingested, due to its acidity." - Idiocy

Pure distilled water is by definition perfectly neutral, neither an acid nor a base.



Yeah, it's not acidic...the problem here is only if you drink tons of distilled water with no other means of nutrition. It will suck all the minerals/vitamins out of you. As long as you have a viable food source this isn't too big of a deal.

In a survival situation this might become a problem...but twinkies last forever, so we will always have food, especially now that everying has a nice thin frosting of radiation on it from Japan ;)

Tactical Bacon anyone?
unknownorgin
not rated yet Apr 06, 2011
Think of how it could be used, they are portable you can carry it 20 miles , you find a water hole but it is all damp mud no problem ,just put the mud in the unit. you can put green cactus leafs in and get water. some water sources are mineralized or salty in fact almost anything that contains water will produce drinkable water with this solar still. And yes it will even distill alcohol.