By Kim Robson:
One of the many plot points in Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi that I’ll always remember was the little solar salt water distillers that kept the boy Pi and his Bengal tiger alive with fresh water for months at sea in an open lifeboat. Filling and maintaining the flotilla of distillers grew to be a major part of the boy’s daily routine. They became nothing short of a minor miracle.
Solar distillers transform salt water into clean, bacteria-free drinking water. They can be used anywhere by coastal regions (or at sea) to produce potable drinking water for those people all over the world who don’t have access to clean water. Water is critical to life; and without regular access to clean drinking water, millions of people in developing countries die every year of preventable diseases, a direct result of the lack of or limited access to clean water. Solar distillers are also attractive for off-grid homesteaders.
The design is simple and elegant while still providing a powerful practical application. Italian designer Gabriele Diamanti has gone a long way toward helping to solve the global drinking water problem. She has invented the Eliodomestico, an eco-distiller that uses only solar energy to provide safe drinking water for people in developing countries. The attractive vessel can be easily made by local artisans, using cheap, widely-available materials such as clay and recycled sheet metal. Since the distillers are made locally, there are virtually zero transportation costs.
How does it work? Salt water is poured into the upper vessel in the morning, then the lid is tightened. As the sun heats the salt water, steam collects on the underside of the lid. This salt-free condensation then runs down a pipe to a collection vessel at the bottom. At the end of the day, up to five liters of fresh water can be removed from the base and carried home. The collection vessel is designed to be easily balanced on top of the head.
The Eliodomestico is environmentally friendly, too. It uses no electricity; there are no filters to buy or replace; there is virtually no maintenance required; it benefits the local economy; and it has zero carbon footprint. The estimated cost is about $50.
The Eliodomestico has been recognized with two prestigious awards: it was the winner of the Core77 Design Award 2012 (social impact category), and a Finalist at the Prix Émile Hermès 2011 competition. The device also merited a special mention at the Well-Tech Award 2012.
In addition to being an elegant and sustainable way to produce healthy, bacteria-free water, Eliodomestico is also an open source project. That means it is not copyrighted, and anyone is free to use the plans and even modify upon the design to make it better. If you would like to donate funds to further the development of the Eliodomestico, you can donate here via PayPal.