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There has been much buzz about the water-purifying machine that Segway inventor Dean Kamen demonstrated on the Colbert Report last week (even taking on the bag of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos that Colbert added). Everyone has been trying to find out more about his claim that "you stick a hose into anything that looks wet … and it comes out … as perfect distilled clean water."
So what follows are the numbers behind the hype. True to form they are distilled from a number of articles and interviews over the last six years. The most informative being Kamen’s talk at TED in 2002.
The slingshot is a David and Goliath reference aimed at putting water and power back in the hands of the individuals
* It is designed to supply a village with 1,000 liters/day of clean water. (Colbert Report) * You can use any water source — ocean, puddle, chemical waste site, hexavalent chrome, arsenic, poison, 50 gallon drum of urine. (Colbert Report) * Vapor compression distillation is not new. Doing it in such an incredibly efficient way such that it takes only 2 percent of the power of convention distillers is new. (R&D World and Gizmodo commenter) * The are no filters to replace, no charcoal, no anything disposable (just distillation). (Colbert Report) * The Slingshot (as its called) can use half the waste heat (450 watts) from a sterling engine electrical generator (prototype also being designed by Kamen’s company) to boil its water. (TED) * The heat put into the water is recovered with a "counter-flow heat exchanger" and recycled to heat the next batch of water (that is part of the novel bit). (TED and Gizmodo commenter) * Slingshot will be less then 60 lbs. (TED) * The prototype slingshot was hand-built for $100K. The goal is to get production units down to $1,000 to $2,000. (CNN) * The sterling engine, used as an electrical generator, can produce about 200 watts of power (it will never be more then 20 percent efficient) and 800 watts of waste heat (the waste heat that slingshot uses). TED * Later sources say the sterling engine can generate 1 kilowatt or enough power for 70 high-efficiency light bulbs. (CNN) * The sterling engine can run on anything that burns, propane or even cow dung.
Caught for the first time on video, Segway inventor Dean Kamen presented his Vapor Compression Distiller on last night's Colbert Report. The distiller is a chemical-, membrane-, and filter-free water purifier. Kamen claims the box draws pure drinkable water from oceans, poisons—even a 50-gallon drum of urine. He has reportedly worked on the contraption for five years, but early prototypes were pretty ugly. This one looks ready for mass production, and with enough, Kamen says we could "wipe out 50% of human disease." Good luck with that, Deano, we're behind you all the way. (That other 50% must be a monumental bitch.) [Colbert Nation]