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Coke Gets Behind Water-Purification System for Developing Nations

Deka's Dean Kamen with his Slingshot water purification system | Image credit: DEKA

The Coca-Cola Company announced a partnership with the R&D company of renowned inventor Dean Kamen to address clean water issues in developing nations. DEKA R&D will help Coke achieve its goal to replenish 100 percent of the water used in its beverages and production by 2020.

Kamen is best known for his Segway scooter, which uses a gyroscope to remain stable on two wheels. But it’s his “Slingshot” water purification system that Coke is interested in. The system uses vapor-compression distillation that runs on low levels of electricity. It boils and evaporates any dirty water source  river water, ocean water and even raw sewage  and then allows the pure water to condense and be collected.

One Slingshot unit can purify up to 300,000 liters of water each year — enough daily drinking water for roughly 300 people — producing 10 gallons of clean water an hour while consuming less than 1 kilowatt of electricity, which is less than the amount of power needed to run a standard handheld hair dryer. The unit can be plugged into the local grid or can be powered by other locally available and renewable power sources such as solar cells, batteries, or another DEKA invention — the Stirling electric generator, which can be powered by biogases such as methane from local waste sources.

In 2013, the intent of the partnership is to deliver millions of liters of clean drinking water to schools, health clinics and community centers in rural regions of countries within Africa and Latin America, which have already been identified as the areas of focus for the Slingshot placements next year. Longer term, Coke and DEKA plan to expand the effort to communities in India, the Middle East and Asia. When fully scaled, the partnership is expected to add more than half a billion liters of clean drinking water per year to the global water supply, Coke said.

Before entering into this partnership, Coca-Cola and DEKA R&D conducted a field trial of the Slingshot technology at five schools outside Accra, Ghana, in 2011, providing 140,000 liters of clean drinking water to 1,500 school children over a six-month period.

“Having a longstanding relationship with The Coca-Cola Company, my team and I knew we could make a great partnership and leverage our innovative water-purification machine for greater good,” Kamen said. “DEKA designed the Slingshot technology to be adaptable to any location, to be able to purify a broad spectrum of inorganic and organic contamination types, and to use any locally available power source, whether it is electricity from a grid, from renewable power installations, or even our own Stirling power generator. For years we looked for a partner who could help us get the Slingshot machine into production, scale it up, bring it down the cost curve, and deliver and operate the units in the places where the need is greatest. Now we have that partner with Coca-Cola, who brings unparalleled knowledge of working, operating and partnering in the most remote places in the world.”

Coke and DEKA R&D have partnered with Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group and Africare to bring the Slingshot technology to communities in rural parts of Latin America and Africa, respectively, and they are currently seeking similar partnerships with other NGOs.

A report released earlier this year by risk analysis company Maplecrofttress says stress on water supplies has the potential to limit economic growth in key regions of the world  including the US and China.

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant.

Bart King is the principal and founder of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. Follow him @bart_king and on LinkedIn.

[Read more about Bart King]

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