Undergrads Enter ‘Innovate or Die’ Pedal-Powered Machine Contest

Watch the video featuring a pedal-powered dirty water distiller designed and built by undergraduate engineers. A team of four undergraduate mechanical engineers have entered an "Innovate or Die" Pedal-Powered Machine contest on YouTube. Their video features a pedal-driven dirty water distillation device originally designed and built in the course ME150: Heat and Mass Transfer. The design project was inspired by the need for devices able to purify water in the case of a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina. The students include Jason Blum, Chelsea He and Werapong Goo, who are all Pratt Undergraduate Research Fellows, and their classmate Edison Zhang.

When dirty water is poured into their device, it travels through a channel to a boiling chamber, they explained. In that chamber, a wire heats up due to the current produced by the cyclist and generator. As the dirty water boils, pure water vapor travels to a copper coil heat exchanger, transferring the heat to the dirty water reservoir and allowing the vapor to condense into a stream of clean drinkable water. "Because the device uses no combustible fuels it is environmentally-friendly and does not introduce any greenhouse gases," the students said in their video.

The students said the featured design proved to be the most efficient built by any student team in the MEMS course taught by Professor Joseph Knight. "Each group in the class had 15 minutes to see how much purified water they could collect," Blum said. "We got about double the amount that the next-best team did."

That efficiency resulted from unique features of their device, including insulating foam, which minimized the amount of water lost as steam during the distillation process, and the separation between the boiling and cooling chambers.

"Nearly 1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water," He said in the video. "As a result about 3.1 million people die each year due to water-related illnesses. Boiling water is a sure way to kill dangerous pathogens and extract pure, drinkable water from contaminated sources. Our distillation device would also be useful during disaster scenarios like Hurricane Katrina, where clean water was scarce and polluted water was all too plentiful."