Dean Kamen is known for many different inventions, most famously the Segway. But in the past few years, Kamen has been working on a new project to bring clean water to people in underdeveloped villages. And Coca-Cola has decided to help him spread the new technology, called “Slingshot,” with its Ekocenters.
The Ekocenters are basically small bodegas that sell all sorts of beverages and snacks but give away clean water for free. They’re calling it a “downtown in a box.” And a key part of that downtown is Kamen’s Slingshot invention that distills water and makes it drinkable.
Kamen developed the technology with his company Deka Research and Development to help bring clean water to people in third-world countries, where access to drinkable water is extremely limited. The Slingshot basically just heats up water using solar energy to boil out the bad parts.
More specifically, the device draws in dirty water from a river or well through a hose. The water is then boiled and converted to steam, separating it from the pollutants, which flow out of a separate hose. The steam rises to a compressor, where it condenses back into water and is cooled down, leaving you with drinkable water.
Coca-Cola deployed the first Slingshot-bearing Ekocenter in 2011, and Tom Foster of Popular Science recently followed up on them to see how they’re doing.
After testing out 15 units in Ghana, Coke and Deka pledged to deploy up to 2,000 Slingshot units in Africa, Asia, and Latin America by 2015. It is committed to providing 500 million litres of safe drinking water per year, according to Foster.
One Slingshot can purify more than 250,000 litres of water per year, which can support the needs of about 300 people, Foster writes. And though close to a billion people lack ready access to safe drinking water, according to the World Health Organisation, Kamen believes that you’ve got to start somewhere.
“Global organisations I don’t think understand that a 21st century problem needs a 21st century solution,” Kamen said in the Slingshot video from Focus Forward Films. “They work on top down government to government big programs, and we’re working on the Slingshot, the little tool that David needs to take on Goliath.”