When he set out on a trip to Cambodia in 2008, Industrial Design student Jonathan Liow had no idea it was going to be a life-changing experience. Upon seeing the poverty and poor living conditions in that country, however, he decided that he wanted to build things that could help people. After hearing about the need for cheap and effective water purification in Africa, he proceeded to create the Solarball for his graduate project at Australia's Monash University. The ball is reportedly capable of producing 3 liters (about 3 quarts) of drinkable water per day, using nothing but polluted water and sunlight.
Users start by pouring dirty water into the Solarball. That water proceeds to get heated by the Sun's rays, which shine in from 360 degrees through the ball's transparent upper section. Condensation forms on the inside of the ball, and is guided down to a spout via an internal gutter that runs around its diameter. What comes out is pure, clean water, as the contaminants are left behind in the unevaporated water.
Liow – who has since graduated from Monash – said that one of the main challenges in the design was "to make the device more efficient than other products available, without making it too complicated, expensive, or technical." The plastic used in its construction is food-safe and entirely recyclable, and we would hope it's UV-tolerant.
The Solarball has since been named as a finalist in the 2011 Australian Design Awards - James Dyson Award, and will be displayed at the Milan International Design Fair. Liow is currently in the process of looking for funding to get the ball manufactured and distributed on a large scale.
It would be interesting to see how it performs as compared to products utilizing SODIS water purification, in which the heat and radiation of sunlight are used to kill pathogens in tainted water.