The idea of drinking water recycled from your sweat or urine may not seem very appealing, but it wouldn’t matter much if we lived in a place where access to drinking water and to any kind of water, in fact, would be almost impossible.
This is where a Sweat Machine like the one created by Unicef and Swedish engineer Andreas Hammar would come in handy. The device, already in use in Sweden, does exactly what its name suggests: it turns perspiration into drinking water.
The machine was built in order to promote a Unicef campaign in Sweden meant to highlight the fact that more than 780 million people do not have access to clean water. The device was set up at a soccer event called the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, where over 1,000 people were able to drink water purified from sweat.
The Sweat Machine is based on new water filtration technology called Membrane Distillation. It extracts the water from sweat-laden clothes by spinning and heating the material in order to remove the sweat. The resulting hot vapor is circulated between two cold membranes that only let the water molecules pass through, separating them from salts, clothing fibers , bacteria and other substances.
The water produced by the perspiration machine is therefore very pure, being cleaner even than tap water in Sweden, Hammar told the BBC. The inventor added that the machine can extract only about 0.4 oz (10ml) of water from a sweaty T-shirt.
At the Gothia Cup event, hundreds of people tasted the water recycled from sweat. The demand was a lot greater than the supply, so organizers installed exercise bikes for volunteers to start producing more sweat for the machine.
Granted, the Sweat Machine is not likely to become as a serious, feasible measure to fight shortages in drinking water across the globe. The concept is interesting, but the machine will never be mass-produced as there are simpler solutions available to purify water, organizers said.
However, the idea is definitely worth exploring further. Fans of Frank Herbert’s Dune series are surely familiar with the Fremen stillsuit that collects and recycles all the moisture that a body releases creating drinking water. While the concept sounded like science fiction a few years ago, advanced technology such as the Membrane Distillation may actually make it reality very soon. What do you think?
[Image via Unicef blog]