The WaterPod: A Solution to Make Seawater Drinkable


LOS ANGELES, California — Three Malaysian university students, Bennie Beh Hue May, Loo Xin Yang and Yap Chun Yoon, developed a sustainable low-cost desalination device named the WaterPod. The students, sophomores at Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation’s School of Media, Arts, and Design (SOMAD), recognized that 97% of the world’s water is in the oceans but a large amount of people have limited or no access to drinkable water. They also noticed that the existing techniques to desalinize seawater are costly and unsustainable. The young designers claim that the WaterPod is the opposite of that. The three have even won a prize for this new and inventive solution to make seawater drinkable.

Water Access Issues

According to the WHO’s most recent data, around 2.2 billion people don’t have easy and free access to drinkable water as of 2019. This number represents approximately one-third of the world’s population. The lack of access to clean water and sanitation—basic human rights—is usually a parameter to evaluate a country’s poverty rates. Those outside of the typical bounds of a country also deal with water inaccessibility.

The Bajau, also called “sea nomads,” is a community that lives in houseboats along the coast of Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. This group faces extremely limited access to water despite being surrounded by it the substance. These sea nomads became the focus of WaterPod developers after observing the group and identifying the Bajau’s struggle to access clean water. However, these specific sea nomads will certainly not be the only ones to benefit from the SOMAD trio’s invention.

How the WaterPod Can Make Seawater Drinkable

The WaterPod is a device that uses porous threads to collect seawater by capillary action. Then, the seawater reaches a black fabric placed inside a capsule covered with a semicircular transparent material. This material allows sunlight to pass through, which causes the seawater to evaporate from the black fabric and condensate on the transparent cover’s inner surface. At this stage, the salt is separated from the water vapor. Finally, the water changes from a gas into a drinkable liquid and flows from the cover to a reservoir. Once at the reservoir, the liquid is held in the 30-40 liter container until someone pumps it out.

As previously stated, the WaterPod is a low-cost inventive solution to make seawater drinkable. The pod is made of recycled plastic taken from the ocean. The young scientists crafted this feature after noticing the immense amount of plastic polluting the sea near the Bajau. The upcycled plastic pod is then filled with a type of foam that causes it to float. Stability is achieved by adding cement to the bottom of the floating device.

Moving forward

Today, the WaterPod is still in the project phase. It needs investments to be prototyped and tested before being integrated into the market. “To push WaterPod further, we hope to obtain funding from any interested parties to allocate into further research and development,” Bennie Beh Hue May, Loo Xin Yang and Yap Chun Yoon stated. Low-cost sustainable inventions like the WaterPod are promising solutions that can facilitate the access to drinkable water, improve people’s well-being and consequently play a big role in the fight to reduce global poverty.

– Iasmine Oliveira
Photo: Flickr


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