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Pedal-Powered Machine Wins Contest
February 1, 2008

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.

“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.”

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