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Science

"Lifesaver Bottle" Filters Viruses Out of Water 503

Posted by kdawson
from the drink-me dept.
gihan_ripper writes "British inventor Michael Pritchard has developed a small self-contained filter system that instantly cleans water, removing all particles larger than 15nm. He said that he was inspired after seeing the effects of Hurricane Katrina and the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004; people had to wait for many days to get fresh water and many died from drinking contaminated water. The filter is so effective that it can purify dirty river water and even fecal matter. His bottle will shortly be available for sale from Lifesaver Systems at an expected cost of £190 (approx. $385)."
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"Lifesaver Bottle" Filters Viruses Out of Water

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  • SpaceSuits anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:05AM (#20587293)
    This sounds like what was in Dune... A rehydrator from excrement (sweat, fecal matter, urine).

    If anything, along with rebreathers and this rehydrator, one could stay in horrendously inhospitable areas for a long while.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      Totally off-topic:

      I was thinking about Dune and stillsuits on warm day and realized that I must have missed something. How would those work in a hot environment anyway? Since we sweat to remain cool, how much heat could you give off without allowing any of that water to evaporate?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by posterlogo (943853)
      This filtration bottle will filter out anything larger than 15 nm particles. But it does not include any sort of distillation mechanism or activated-charcoal or ion-exchange column to filter out the salts, ions, and other small molecules, like toxins. It's nice that it will eliminate disease causing microorganisms, but this dude's bottle will still make your piss taste like piss.
  • $385!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Loosifur (954968) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:06AM (#20587297)
    Fantastic idea, except for the fact that anyone in the path of Katrina who could have afforded a $385 water bottle could have afforded a $90 plane ticket, $35 bus ride, or $27 tank of gas.
    • Now think big, create an industrial size good-for-the-whole-town version and sell it to the government...
    • Re:$385!? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jabuzz (182671) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:10AM (#20587377) Homepage
      As I understand it a lot of people could have afforded to get out. However they didn't think it was going to be that bad, it's just another huricane after all, and prefered to stick it out and make sure their stuff was not looted. However once it hit, and it turned out to be bad, getting out became a problem.
      • Re:$385!? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by C0rinthian (770164) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @10:11AM (#20588381)
        I lived in South Florida for 27 years. I'm one of the first people who says "It's just another hurricane." When I saw the predictions for Katrina, even I thought anyone sticking around was stupid.
      • by tacokill (531275) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @10:29AM (#20588681)
        It wasn't the hurricane that was the problem. It was the levies. Had the levees not broken, we would not be talking about Katrina today.

        Obviously, they are related because the levees would not have broken without the hurricane. But the point here is that the Hurricane did remarkably little damage on it's own. The levees, on the other hand, were responsible for almost all of the issues you read about today.

        Just another example of the edges starting to fray with respect to our national infrastructure. Without the levee issues, Katrina isn't special. Powerful? yes. Scary? yes. Destructive? Not really, when compared to something like Andrew or Hugo.

        ...and don't even get me started on the emergency response.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2007 @10:45AM (#20589007)
          Damn folks still thinking that Katrina only affected New Orleans. Katrina
          wiped out entire cities on the Mississippi Gulf coast. Infrastructure
          was destroyed for at least 100 miles inland. The military had to **cut**
          their way down HWY 49 to reach the coast.

          So, to correct your statement, A large percentage of New Orleans problems
          were caused, post hurricane, by the failure of the levees. A large percentage
          of the problems caused by directly Katrina were actually in Mississippi.
    • Re:$385!? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AvitarX (172628) <me@@@brandywinehundred...org> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:10AM (#20587379) Journal
      But I bet it is easier to get these to people after the fact that to get them as much water as it can produce.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by usfGPM (235370)
      I think the initial idea is to let the first responders and shelters have a few of these in storage so that they can be distributed to the areas that need them in an emergency. After the are in wider use, the price will come down and it will start to be feasible for individuals to buy them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by NeoTerra (986979)
      "...could have afforded a $90 plane ticket, $35 bus ride, or $27 tank of gas"

      Difficult to do when there is no bus drivers, or no electricity to pump gas or run the airport. You forget the largest problem in Katrina was getting to the people, and getting the people somewhere safe, among other local government problems.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Loosifur (954968)
        Those were all problems after the fact, however. Prior to landfall those options were open, and even moving from New Orleans to, say, a Motel 6 in East Texas would greatly improve your situation in that scenario, moving you out of the path of the eye. Besides which, once the storm hit, it would be as difficult to buy those bottles as it would be to get transportation. Buying the bottles beforehand presumes an attitude of preparedness that I don't think was there, or else you would have seen more evacuation
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by doooooosh (1124823)
      I've been using the First Need Deluxe water purifier for 10 years. It costs ~$100 for the whole thing, ~$40 for a replacement cartridge. It deals with virii and has been around forever. Sure, each cartridge is only good for about ~100 gallons, but I'm skeptical of the claims that this bottle can do 10 times that without changing the filter.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by PakProtector (115173)

        I've been using the First Need Deluxe water purifier for 10 years. It costs ~$100 for the whole thing, ~$40 for a replacement cartridge. It deals with virii and has been around forever. Sure, each cartridge is only good for about ~100 gallons, but I'm skeptical of the claims that this bottle can do 10 times that without changing the filter.
        In English, the plural of Virus is Viruses. In Latin, Virus was a mass noun, and was not used in the plural.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Angstroem (692547)
          Besides, its correct plural in Latin -- if ever used -- would have been "vira" or "virus" (long u), but never virii.
        • Re: Nouns (Score:3, Informative)

          by Flwyd (607088)
          Mass nouns can be pluralized to indicate multiple types of mass. For instance, "I ate lots of meat" and "I ate several lunch meats."
    • Re:$385!? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:19AM (#20587587)

      Fantastic idea, except for the fact that anyone in the path of Katrina who could have afforded a $385 water bottle could have afforded a $90 plane ticket, $35 bus ride, or $27 tank of gas.

      Easier to hand out one bottle per person than one gallon of water per person per day. You also fail to note that there were mile-long lines at the pumps, and flights and buses were full. This is in part due to infrastructure, part due to the realities of evacuating a large city, and partly because the evacuation order was given ridiculously late.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by darkmeridian (119044)
      You know how you never want to be the first to acquire new technology because of the high prices? Right now, the dude is targeting the military with this product at this price. He sold out his entire 1,000 bottle stock at a military trade show. Just like GPS, night vision, and sat phones, the prices will come down as the armed forces acquire these things. Eventually, these suckers will become commodities. I hike a lot. I would love to have one of these things because right now, you have to either carry lots
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tylernt (581794)
      Not to mention the fact that hikers and backpackers have used $60 filter bottles [google.com] for years now that do pretty much the same thing. Not only that, but I already have filter straws [google.com] with activated carbon in my 72-hour kits [google.com]. They cost about $10. Another company makes a small battery-powered water filter with a UV light in it to sterilize pathogens.

      I'm to lazy to RTFA, but this thing sounds like a ridiculously expensive non-invention. The already existing, less-expensive technology might not get virii out, but y
      • by interactive_civilian (205158) <{mamoru} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @10:01AM (#20588215) Homepage Journal
        tylernt said:

        Not to mention the fact that hikers and backpackers have used $60 filter bottles for years now that do pretty much the same thing.
        Based on the summary, not quite the same thing. I have a Katadyn Pocket filter [katadyn.com] which is generally regarded as one of the BEST consumer water filter systems (I've been told that it is basically a scaled down version of what the UN uses for refugee missions). It is rugged, not too heavy (though much lighter ones exists), pumps about 1 liter per minute, and a single filter cartridge is good for 50,000 liters.

        HOWEVER, it can only filter particles down to 200nm, which is good enough to get just about all bacteria and some viruses. But, this new one filters down to 15nm which covers just about everything. Slap a charcoal filter on it to absorb toxins, and it sounds like a hell of a water system.

        Still, you can have my Pocket filter when you pry it from my cold, dead, dysenteric fingers. ;)

        • I looked at the Katadyn device and I always wonder why people slap on the Swiss flag. Is that supposed to mean Swiss use it? Heck I am sitting here in Switzerland and have hiked quite a bit through the mountains. Never seen the device. Want to know what people do? They drink the water fresh from the creek, or from one of the fountains that you find scattered throughout the mountains.
        • by raddan (519638) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:04PM (#20590473)
          Of course, with such a fine porosity, I wonder how well the filter actually works in practice. Having had a lot of experience doing field maintenance on an MSR filter (I've hiked roughly 4000 miles with this one so far), I can say that even around 200nm, the filter needs regular cleaning. Cleaning becomes harder and is required more regularly as your filter gets finer (often referred to as the "tightness" of the filter).

          My BuonVino wine filter, which I once [idiotically] ran beer through, clogged in a matter of seconds, thus drenching me and my kitchen in about a quart of beer before I could turn it off. See, wine yeast tends to be highly flocculant-- it clumps together and drops out-- which means that there isn't a whole lot of filtering to be done to make it "bright". Beer, on the other hand, contains yeast of a lower flocculence, and so my filter clogged immediately. And filters that fine can't be reused-- you have to throw them away. This is why big beer manufacturers (like Budweiser) tend to invest a far amount of money in making sure that they have a lot of filter material available (they often use diatomaceous earth [wikipedia.org]).
  • by ettlz (639203) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:07AM (#20587319) Journal
    No shit!
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • Just what I have been waiting for. I want my still-suit now.
  • I somehow have doubts that the poor people remaining in NOLA during and after Katrina would have been able to make use of these bottles, if they were available, at 385 freaking dollars!
    • by grassy_knoll (412409) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @10:04AM (#20588259) Homepage
      You need 2 buckets, a cotton t-shirt, propane camp stove ( or a heat source to boil water of some kind ) and bleach.

      Cover the mouth of the empty bucket with the cotton t-shit.

      Fill the other bucket with suspect water.

      Pour the water from the full bucket into the empty bucket through the t-shirt. This filters out the larger baddies.

      Presuming at least one of the buckets is metal, you can boil water in that. If not, a pot of some sort is required. The idea is to boil the water to a rolling boil for at least one minute.

      Allow the water to cool for at least 30 minutes. Once cool, add 16 drops of bleach per gallon ( or 8 drops per 2 liter bottle ). If the water smells faintly of chlorine, it's safe to drink. If not, repeat adding the bleach.

      Thanks to the Red Cross [redcross.org] for directions.

      A $400 water filtration system is nice, and can be cost effective in some cases ( as others pointed out, shipping and distributing small empty bottles is easier that shipping and distributing water ), but not having one doesn't mean you have no options.
  • Expensive (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eknagy (1056622)
    Water purifier pills are way cheaper. Still, most people don't keep a box of them "just in case" in their backpack (right next to the dry rations, water-proof matches and raincoat).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Radon360 (951529)

      Water purifier pills are way cheaper.

      I wholeheartedly agree, but they don't remove suspended solids or do much to remove odor (other than to perhaps mask it).

      Something tells me that the marketing point of view was taken to draw more attention to the product ("hey, look! this can save lives!") rather than selling it on where most of the buyers are going to be, the military and extreme outdoors recreationalist types.

  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Crobar (1143477) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:16AM (#20587501)
    Is there one for Windows?
  • I've read, probably in Technology Review, of people making this for 3rd world countries where bad drinking water is rampant. I think they've gotton costs minimal (@$15) and reliability high. .
  • by spooje (582773) <spooje&hotmail,com> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:17AM (#20587539) Homepage

    Sounds great, but what are the odds that the average citizens in Ache or any of the other poor areas affected by the tsunami could afford the bottle.

    On the other hand, it sounds great for places like in Tokyo where you'll need a water cleaning kit for the big one. People will still have plenty of access to water in the form of Tokyo Bay and the rivers, but nothing clean enough to normally drink. It would have to be better than the current stratergy of leaving filled bottles of water outside houses and in local parks.

  • LifeStraw (Score:5, Informative)

    by mutende (13564) <klaus@seistrup.dk> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:23AM (#20587673) Homepage Journal
    More than one year ago, BBC mentioned the LifeStraw [bbc.co.uk] that filters water as you drink. It's able to filter 700 litres of water and was at that time priced at less than two quid (probably the wholesale price). See also the inventor Torben Vestergaard Frandsen's website [lifestraw.com].
  • by Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) <abacaxi@[ ]mail.com ['hot' in gap]> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:28AM (#20587739)
    This makes economic sense under some conditions: Instead of cases of bottled water, you have one bottle and filter as needed.

    If this can deliver 4,000 liters at under $1 a liter, and is shipped empty, it's cheaper than shipping pallets of bottled water for military and aid organizations. And when mass production hits, I can see this becoming popular with campers, tourists, business travellers and others.

  • real or just an ad? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kurthr (30155) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:35AM (#20587845)
    It's been possible to buy similar "virus level" filters for hiking since at least the 80s. The typical problems are cleaning, and clogging. See Katadyn or your local REI for a variety of samples. Then there's the "$2" (really about $7) LifeStraw, that was advertised on gizmodo 2 years ago... is this just a running theme?

    If the filter is small enough to block viruses, then it is so small that even very small 1u particles will clog it. The whole filter system has to be optimized... and they still clog. They claim 1000 liters, but I'm not really buying it. If it really has something to do with distilling, then I'd be more positive, but that's usually pretty darn complex.

    Perhaps he's using a teflon reverse osmosis filter? At the price, it's certainly possible. Those take significant pressure, but they would take out viruses. The water has to start pretty clean too or they develop a film which clogs them too. People have tried iodine on them as well... it works for a while. Whithout knowing what this thing is (and the website's no help), I don't think we can really talk coherently about it.

    If it is just a filter you can reverse flush and clean and do a variety of other things, but if your filter clogs after a few liters you'll be _very_ unhappy. This is made more difficult by the fact that you're trying to clean out biologicals, which will happily grow in the filter so it clogs up even quicker, and the cleaning is even more important and difficult to do completely. That's why people make throw aways or just add a halogen (chlorene/iodine) to a tub of relatively filtered water (so things can diffuse) and wait an hour.

    Most hikers (who bother) use a more coarse filter (for bacteria only). Often these are treated with iodine as well, and perhaps charcoal to remove bad tastes. These keep clogging problems down, and make cleaning somewhat more easy. That's what the LifeStraw is based on.

    I hope this is really an advancement, but it has the smell of an ad.
  • Yes, but... (Score:4, Funny)

    by freyyr890 (1019088) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:35AM (#20587867) Homepage
    Does it remove Dihydrogen Monoxide [dhmo.org] from the water?
  • by westlake (615356) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:49AM (#20588071)
    His bottle will shortly be available for sale from Lifesaver Systems [CC] at an expected cost of £190 (approx. $385)."

    Simple, portable, anti-viral filters are not new. The First Need Deluxe Water Filter/Purifier [amazon.com] is $93 at Amazon. First Need is one filter that claims to meet EPA virus-removal standards by filtration alone -- a nice change from the yucky taste (and for some, the health risks) of iodine. Most antiviral filters involve an iodine element; when its job is done, a carbon element rids your water of any face-scrunching aftertaste. How To Buy a Water Filter [outdoorreview.com]

  • Better Use (Score:3, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:52AM (#20588101)
    So there is a 15nm filter that can get even viruses and bacteria out of water?

    How about using it for home use, recycling "Grey water waste" and rainwater into drinking water. £400 a pop seems more impressive when considered that way. Assuming the filters can be made economically enough there is a huge potential market there.

    I like the idea of anything that reduces our dependence on piped convenience.

  • by RealErmine (621439) <commerce AT wordhole DOT net> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @09:59AM (#20588193)

    From the lifesaver systems [lifesaversystems.com] "unique features" page:

    LIFESAVER bottle is fitted with a chew-proof non-tasting replaceable teat.

    Finally. I hate when my teat gets all chewed up. It's also pretty creepy that my previous teat can taste me whenever I use it.

  • by SethJohnson (112166) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @10:05AM (#20588277) Homepage Journal


    Another method of killing bacteria in drinking water is to expose it to excessive ultraviolet light. You can do this by putting it in clear plastic bottles, then set the bottles on a mirror in the sun. A reflective tin roof will also work. After an hour or so, this method kills 98% of harmful bacteria. Bacteria has a tolerance of normal amounts of UV light, but the mirror doubles the exposure, which they are unable to survive.

    I don't know if fecal matter in water would be cleaned by this method.

    Water purification methods [freedrinkingwater.com].

    Seth
  • Is it safe? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SnarfQuest (469614) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @10:15AM (#20588451)
    During something like Katrina, there is a lot more crap in the water than just bacteria.

    What does this thing do with gasoline, pesticides, and other chemicals coming out of drowned cars, stores, homes, and factories? If it isn't removing these chemicals, then you can't be sure the processed water is safe to drink. You will probably see a lot of sick people who relied on this product, and got poisoned because of the false sense oc security.
  • Doesn't add up. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by guidryp (702488) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @11:06AM (#20589381)
    I am a hiker, I use an MSR pump filter.

    The MSR pump allows you to exert a fair bit of force and you will get tired pumping a single liter.
    The MSR has a coarser (more open filter).
    The MSR will start to clog withing tens of liters of what looks like fairly clean water. You then need to clean the filter.

    The MSR is actually one of the better filters on the market.

    Now how can a filter that is supposedly much tighter, be easier to pump (squeeze bottle) and last for thousands of liters of brackish water with no cleaning requirements mentioned.

    I also noticed no technical info when I clicked it on the web page.

    Personally I would stay far away until there was independent lab reviews and field testing, because this really doesn't add up.

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