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Low Tech Innovation

allig's Avatarg8_badge

As some may know, I am currently working towards the ultimate goal of working with overseas humanitarian medical missions (hence why you don't see me very often anymore--lots of work to do!!)  One thing I like to keep up on in the realm of innovation is clever ideas that use low tech (think: trash or cheap resources) in really creative ways that end up having a huge impact on impoverished communities.  I like the ingenuity and it's also a good chance ideas like this might come in handy for me someday so I like to keep this mental catalog.  I also think ideas like these inspire us to think about available resources and knowledge in new ways.  

What are some low tech innovations you know of? (Yes, I'm harvesting your knowledge!)

Here are a few that I like:

Zeer pot

This has been around for a little while.  It's a clay pot placed inside of a larger clay pot and the mid space is filled with sand and then saturated with water.  The evaporation process of the water within the sand cools the inner pot which creates a little refrigerator.  The temperature inside the small pot can get down to the 60s or even high 50s even when it's 100 degrees outside.

Soda bottle solar light

This is a scathingly brilliant idea!  It's a soda bottle that's been filled with water and a bit of bleach (to keep the water clean inside the bottle) and a hole is cut into the ceiling and the bottle inserted in the roof and it creates a skylight during the daytime!

Eco-cooler

This is literally rocket science!  An ingenious application of Bernoulli's Principle to make a simple air-conditioner out of plastic bottles and cardboard.  As wind is funneled through the bottles and pushed through the bottleneck, air pressure is increased and therefore creates a cooler breeze than simply an open window.

FoldScope

Last but not least, a cardboard microscope.  It ain't no compound, but it can magnify images in the micro range.  It's heavily used in the field in areas that lack lab resources.

Robert Pontius
Mary Gorman
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allig's Avatarg8_badge

Don't feel guilty.  I'm pretty sure all my submissions solve "first world problems" :P

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inovate's Avataree_badge

Alli, Good luck reaching and being a part of your goal.

I'm sure you will be a blessing for those you work with, as well as those you are there to help. 

I hope others will chime in for you here, but I know that if something is needed, you will find a way to make it work.

Don't forget to pack a sheet tamer.

Kim L
Alli G
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speedbump's Avatar

Alli ... you may have seen the "Hippo Water Roller" but if not check it out on YouTube. No soup ... er I mean links for me ... lol I saw it some time back and thought it was pretty neat. It doesn't use existing materials but helps solve a problem for impoverished nations.

Alli G
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allig's Avatarg8_badge

I think I do remember that one, Archie!  I saw it here on EN, actually (couldn't remember the name of it).  I recall a CEO of a company that did a product search here maybe a year ago had seen the Hippo Roller and was inspired to search for new ideas on how to move water for mopping systems.

The Hippo Roller was a good idea that has no doubt saved women a lot of time who would otherwise be spending the better part of every day going to get water.  I'd like to figure out how to cheaply and efficiently clean and filter the water that's brought from these sources as often it's the sanitation of the water that keeps communities diseased and unable to flourish.

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inovate's Avataree_badge

Hi Alli, 

Not sure where you are going but (Water4) is in some of rural Africa and a dozen other countries. They share more on the way of teach a man to fish, instead of  give a man a fish and feed him for a day. With all the heat bacteria grows so fast, that maybe digging wells is a way for better water then some above ground water gathering.

I too remember the hippo, and was thinking if an inexpensive filtration system can be added to something like it.

I believe i remember a 99% pure water treatment (glass sized) on shark tank. You put the worst water in it and shook. It was ready to drink.

put something like that in the hippo, roll it, siphon the good water to another hippo.

Dump original hippo out and repeat till second hippo is full. Sand, rocks, and charcoal have always been natures blessings for filtering water.

Alli G
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allig's Avatarg8_badge

Thanks Roger!  It sounds great... I'm sure it works, but id want to run my own testing of the filtered water, only because it almost sounds too good!  After that, I wonder how feasible it would be to fabricate them cheaply from available materials.

Charlie - I definitely agree with the teaching a man to fish philosophy.  I'm not interested in groups that hand out lollipops and sandals.  My push toward the medical side is because I believe that's an avenue in which direct intervention is appropriate in addition to teaching locals because diseased communities will never get to where they can be self-sufficient, and I think clean water is a huge part of healthy communities.  Human beings can endure and overcome a lot of things, but health is vital to their evolution.

You're right that heat breeds bacteria.  Maybe an evaporative cooling system like the zeer pot would help on that front :)

Charlie Lumsden
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inovate's Avataree_badge

You got me thinking now, Why can't an inexpensive filtration be applied to something like the zeer pot, on a village scale? If you can refrigerate foods and with the same unit and most of all, the same water made drinkable. win/win

Ways are also improving and will get cheaper  in the pulling of water from air.

Is there a way to make the zeer pot self suficient, as far as regaining lost moisture?

Alli G
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allig's Avatarg8_badge

Not that I can think of not being familiar with the actual logistics.  Another problem with the zeer pot is that if you make the volume too big it won't cool sufficiently.  As it us you'd probably need one per person for a days drinking supply.  There's also the issue of the zeer pot needing water to cool (although it doesn't have to be clean water)

I wonder if a huge dome made from a tent like material with a burner system would be feasible to reclaim water vapor in the air.....  

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inovate's Avataree_badge

I like the dome idea, but I feel it would probably need to take from outside air to get the moisture needed for drinking. The dome could be made from the local leaves.  Maybe not on a village scale size,but maybe for a families individual needs. 

One question to ponder. If we can get water from the air, why can't we get it from the under-ground without digging?

 After a rain the sun comes out and steam rises, so if we could add heat to the ground to make the water vaporize and rise, then maybe your dome could be used with a couple tubes to filter the water gathered into collection area.

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allig's Avatarg8_badge

I would assume in arid landscapes most of the water evaporates out of the ground and back into the air.

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inovate's Avataree_badge

I would assume same Alli, Mother nature knows how to take care of herself.

Alli G
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allig's Avatarg8_badge

Thanks, Frank!  Survival sites are always a goldmine of ways to exploit available resources!

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countofmontecristo's Avatar

Lots of good posts in this thread, so I'll continue the trend.

I use a Sawyer .02 Micron water filter for my extra-super-duper clean water. Nothing beats its, not even distilled as that removes beneficial minerals your body and bones need.  Seriously, drinking distilled water long term is very bad for you.

The Sawyer .02 filters down to the VIRUS level...that's right, smaller than bacteria.

Not much gets past .02 microns, but alas, even that is not 100%.

On the topic of third world water problems (coming soon to a country near you) one 'invention' I saw recently

It was a 'condensing well head' of sorts, that looks amazing, but I have not followed up to see if they are in production yet. It looks like it breaks basic laws of thermodynamics, so I doubt it works as advertised.

Another one that may be 'vaporware' (ha, pun) was called- Personal Solar Desalination Water Product

I suspect it was not all up to snuff, as they reported they could even remove radiation from contaminated water. I'm not too sure about that claim.

Another (not so simple I'm afraid) is one by the famous inventor Dean Kamen.  I remember him talking about it years ago and then BOOM! He just up and does it. I used to live about 20 minutes from him.

Lots of good stuff here, thanks for starting the thread Ali!

Kenneth Rainbolt
Alli G
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kimmyk's Avatargold

Hey Ralph, is the Sawyer anything like a Berkey?  Not cheap, but filter out pretty much everything, including fluoride.

Alli, did you see the product called (I believe) LumenAid?  It was on Shark Tank, and the inventors are from Houston.  They are working in Africa, and it provides rechargeable light very cheaply.  Way cool!

Great topic!  And you're right... preppers are very clever with their problem solving.  :)

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countofmontecristo's Avatar

Hi Kim L-

The Sawyer .02 unit totally blows away any and all other filters including Big Berkeys.

(I posted a link in reply above you can click on, takes you right to the page.)

No other filter (to my knowledge) can beat the .02 Sawyer, period.   Good for about 1.5 million liters AND is back-flushable to boot!  I could scoop out muddy water out of a puddle, filter it, save some aside to back flush with and drink it thinking nothing of it.

Also cheaper than a big ol monster Berkey.  Also- try fitting THAT in your backpack! 

Lifestraws ARE handy and small, but do not filter down to the virus level either.

True, it's not 100% totally foolproof effective, but way, way closer than anything else out there.  REI carries them if I remember right...

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jdowney9000's Avatargold

Who remembers a simple design called a "pogo"?

A spring stilt utilizing compression springs on each foot was patented in 1891 by George H. Herrington of Wichita, Kansas "for leaping great distances and heights".

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