Segway Inventor Takes On Clean Water


clean drinking water image

Segway inventor Dean Kamen also invented a robotic arm and a wheelchair that can climb stairs and lift a person to standing height. He’s a man of many inventions and talents with 150 patents. But more recently, the inventor has taken on clean water.

Over the past 15 years, Kamen has worked to develop a portable means of delivering clean water to the more than 900 million people worldwide who don’t have reliable access to drinkable water.

“There are nearly a billion people in the world that get up every morning and their primary goal is to find water,” Kamen told Popular Science. “Many travel great distances to find water that won’t kill them. And sadly, hundreds of thousands of times a year it does kill, mostly kids.”

Segway inventor Kamen uses a system called vapor compression distillation to produce drinkable water from any water-based liquid including sewage, seawater, and chemical waste. This means that water laced with arsenic, poison, heavy metals, viruses, and bacteria can be purified.

It works by re-liquifying water at a precise temperature. Dirty water gets sucked into the system where it warms to a boiling point and enters an evaporator. It’s boiled to still hotter temperatures so that bacteria, viruses, and spores get hit twice. Steam rises from the evaporator into a compressor and clean water drips into the final chamber.

The device, about the size of a dorm fridge, is delivered with the help of a transportable container that Coca-Cola helped design.

According to Popular Science:

Created primarily by Coca-Cola and Deka Research and Development, the New Hampshire company founded by inventor Dean Kamen, the container is meant to be a kind of “downtown in a box”: a web-connected bodega-cum-community center that can be dropped into underdeveloped villages all over the world. Coke calls it an Ekocenter. It’s a pithy name, but it masks the transformative technology hidden within the container.

Kamen’s water technology feats are described in a new documentary premiering at Sundance.

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Image: UK Department of International Development

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Sara Novak