He James Dyson Award (JDA) is an annual product design competition organized in 28 countries and regions, where Poland arrives as a novelty this year. College design engineering students are invited to present and present their innovations to solve a problem, and this year’s theme is environmental sustainability.
In an exclusive interview at the virtual roundtable, Vulcan Post learned that this year’s national winner from Malaysia is WaterPod, a sustainable desalination pod that converts seawater into drinking water naturally.
WaterPod was designed by 21-year-olds Bennie Beh Hue May and Ash Yap Chun Yoon of Selangor and Elson Loo Xin Yang of Johor. 2nd year students are pursuing a degree in Product Design at Asia Pacific University KL, and classmates have never met in person because of the MCO.
Both Bennie and Ash credited their design skills to their parents, the mother of the former being an interior designer while the father of the latter is engaged in the arts. Meanwhile, Elson is looking for designers like Naoto Fukasawa and Dieter Rams who continue to inspire him on his journey through design.
The problem of water in the sea
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three people worldwide—Including sea nomads — they have no access to safe drinking water.
Did you know: Marine nomads is a term commonly used to refer to lowland people who have lived in the sea for over 1,000 years in small houseboats floating in the waters surrounding Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. They have also been called “super divers” because they are very good at diving because of their lifestyle and breadth. At depths of 200 feet, they can remain underwater for up to 13 minutes.
Contaminated water poses health risks that can cause diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, and intestinal worms, to name a few.
Bennie, Ash and Elson noticed this problem after contacting Malaysian Sandakan marine nomads through their teacher who participates in an NGO in the service of the community. The team explained that many of them were fishermen who lost their livelihoods during the closure.
The problem also complicates the great distances that people have to travel just to get drinking water by exchanging it in a nearby city with collected rainwater.
“By the way, the nomads of the sea also collected a lot of plastic bottles scattered in the sea, but they didn’t know what to do with them. [them]”, Explained the team.
The students told Vulcan Post that they were initially tasked with designing a product that sea nomads could recreate from plastic bottles. As they delved deeper into the research, however, they decided to break the root of the water problem by giving the community access to clean water to help improve their living conditions.
“Ideally in our plan, the WaterPod should be able to produce from materials recycled for bottles. If the project is successful, we will explore how to set up a system to clean and recycle the bottles collected so that they can be sold. [them] and use [them] to produce WaterPod, ”they hoped.
Make seawater drinkable
WaterPod is a sustainable desalination pod that works in solar distillation to convert seawater into drinking water. It is designed to be floated in the sea and therefore accessible to sea nomads.
Leveraging basic science, students got the structural design of WaterPod looking at nature. Inspired by the roots of a mangrove tree, WaterPod uses a wick that rejects salt beneath the device that absorbs seawater and transports it to a black tissue on top of a hemispherical aluminum plate.
With the heat of sunlight, seawater will evaporate from the fabric to a transparent dome cover at the top. The ambient air surrounding the roof will cause condensation to occur. The ocean waves will create the energy needed to shake the steam collected in the dome and the water droplets will tilt towards a lower storage chamber.
Finally, clean drinking water can be recovered using a water pump system.
Plans to do it on a large scale
Due to the MCO, the team was unable to perform a large-scale test for WaterPod. They hope to get funding from public or private investors to pursue R&D.
If the team further drives its project, WaterPod will function as a cost-effective alternative to existing desalination plants. Its innovation will also have a modular concept that can connect several pods to the sea to improve its buoyancy and stability without turning upside down.
To combat plastic pollution at the same time, the proposed large-scale WaterPod will use recycled plastic materials collected in the ocean as a mold for its body.
Since the WaterPods would go out to sea without shade, we wondered if there was a concern about melting the plastic. When asked, the well-read students assured that this would not happen as the plastic waste floating in the ocean already takes 450 years to degrade completely. In addition, a high temperature of 200 ° C is also needed to melt the plastic.
In addition, the transparent material selected for the evaporation chamber is a high-quality plastic material, polycarbonate, which is of an industrial standard designed to withstand the heat of the sun.
“However, even though WaterPod will not melt in sunlight, the sheath may degrade due to ultraviolet light. [rays] of the sun. In the worst case, we can cover the sheath with a UV protection sealant to extend the life of the product, ”the team suggested.
Creating a version of WaterPod with the proposed materials would require students to collaborate with appropriate manufacturers who had the resources to build it on a large scale. Based on the computer simulation of the computer, a full-size WaterPod that works should have a water storage capacity of 30 to 40 liters.
What the runners-up had reserved
Apart from the national winning design, the two runners-up had interesting inventions also aimed at reducing waste.
He No waste bottle aims to solve the problem of conventional pump action bottles that are ineffective to remove to the last glass of solution from the container. It was designed by Wang Huangyutian, an international student from China in his fourth semester of industrial design at Limkokwing University, after his own struggles with shampoo bottles,
In the meantime, Citra, The Bio Leather (CBL) is designed by Menlin Ng Aniathul Fitri, a 24-year-old Sabahan student specializing in Product Design at Klin University in Sains Malaysia. His product redesigns a sustainable bag made of organic leather from discarded citrus skins. This bag can be used as a packaging for beauty products.
Both runners-up plan to market their products, but will first work to refine them.
Featured Image Credit: Bennie Beh Hue May, Team Leader of WaterPod, Malaysia’s National Winner for the 2021 James Dyson Award