Providing clean water for all could be as easy as
riding a bike. Or a trike, if Aquaduct has an influence.
Winner of the 2007 Innovate or Die pedal power
competition, the Aquaduct Mobile Filtration Vehicle
stores, transports, and purifies water as it goes.
“We came up with ideas ranging from ways to
clean up oil spills in the Bay to how to boil an egg,”
says Brian Mason, one of Aquaduct’s five designers,
all of whom work at the Palo Alto, Calif., design firm
IDEO. “But we kept coming back to the need for
clean water in the developing world.”
Photograph by Nicolas Zurcher
More than 1 billion people lack access to clean
water. Trekking miles to fetch it can take hours, and
boiling it for sanitation uses precious resources.
Aquaduct reduces the strain of hauling water, and
its closed system prevents contamination.
Simply ride to a source, fill the 20-gallon storage
tank — a day’s supply for a family of four — and
pedal home, filtering all the way. Clean water drains
into a removable container that can be brought
indoors. Once that’s empty, the pedals can be
disengaged from the wheels and the vehicle ridden
in a stationary position to filter the rest.
“The answers are out there,” says another of
Aquaduct’s designers, Paul Silberschatz. “Through
design and innovation, we can find simple solutions
to even the most challenging problems.”
The team, including Adam Mack, Eleanor
Morgan, and John Lai, used 2D and 3D modeling
to help them modify a Miami Sun tricycle frame,
custom-build a peristaltic pump that draws water
through a simple filter, and cover surfboard foam in
fiberglass to round out the body. Simple sanding
and automotive paint finished the job, explains
Silberschatz, who, luckily, used to build race cars.
The IDEO crew donated the contest’s $5,000
purse — along with a $10,000 match from sponsors
Google and Specialized — to Kickstart, a nonprofit
that develops and markets new technologies in
Africa. But they did ride away with something: each
member got a brand-new urban commuter bicycle
called the Globe. —Megan Mansell Williams
Aquaduct in Action: makezine.com/go/aquaduct