by Cate Trotter
Over the years, Milan has evolved from merely hosting a furniture fair every spring to having almost every street taken over by all types of innovative design every April. This year, sustainable design joined in the fray more than ever, with many exciting exhibits highlighting socially conscious design, including the Well-Tech Awards. At this inspirational show we discovered the Lifesaver bottle - a beautifully simple concept for portable water filtration, and one that could make a real difference to a world increasingly threatened by shortages of clean, drinkable water.
The Lifesaver was developed in response to natural disasters such as 2004’s tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. The concept is relatively simple, based upon the fact that the smallest virus is 25 nanometers across, so by using a filter with holes 15 nanometers across, all nasties can be trapped without the need for chemicals. The term ‘nasties’ is actually quite an understatement. Lifesaver can filter out bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and all other microbiological waterborne pathogens. And in the real world, of course, the bottle was much harder to realize than we’ve described it. The bottle is the world’s first ultra filtration water bottle, and the inventor put all of his life savings into developing it.
But it was this level of development effort that has brought about a product that is exceptionally easy to use. Fill it with water by unscrewing the base and dipping it in the nearest puddle or stream, screw the base back and use the pump to force the water through to a teat at the other end. The clean water can then be drunk directly or poured into a separate container for storage. These simple instructions make it suitable for use by children, and in developing countries.
The unit uses replaceable filters, which can treat about 4000 liters of water – five and a half years of usage if you drank 2 liters every day. The filter is speedy, too - 750ml of water can be prepared in just under a minute. And users can rest safe in the knowledge they’re getting maximum life out of the product without poisoning themselves, as the unit has a unique feature to shut itself off when the cartridge has expired.
Costing £230 ($460), the Lifesaver isn’t exactly cheap, but it is a world first, and we’re sure the price reflects the genuinely innovative R&D that went into its development. Not only was it featured at Well-tech, it won ‘Best Technological Development for Future Soldier System Enhancement’ at Soldier Technology 2007. It’s ironic that a design that can bring world peace can also support world conflict, but here’s hoping it’s used for the former rather than the latter.