Cycle to the watering hole and filter the collected water using the power generated by the pedals on the way back: this brilliant-sounding idea for developing countries was put into practice during MANN+HUMMEL’s family day in Ludwigsburg, Germany in 2011. It all started when a colleague entered this suggestion into our idea management system the year before. The idea review board then commissioned us to look into the concept a little more closely and conduct a small project exploring it. The idea is based on an award-winning entry in the 2007 IDEO (international design and innovation consultancy firm) contest. For us in the new water filtration business unit, it provided a good opportunity to explore new aspects of the filtration market.
No doubt many people still remember the tricycle that was available for test runs at the family day in Ludwigsburg in 2011.
It even received media coverage, and we still use it to this day at various events to show people how water filtration works. The tricycle was created by a team from advanced development and prototype construction – all avid cyclists of course – who converted the three-wheel cargo bike into a ridable water filtration device. Driven by pedal power, the dirty water is pumped from a 20-litre canister through the milk bottle-sized water filter. The resulting clear and clean water then flows into a second 20-litre canister, which is also positioned over the rear axle. Although actually quite a simple idea, the following two questions came up on more than one occasion: Is this funny design a form of hydrogen-powered bicycle, and can you use the filter to remove the yeast from wheat beer to make it clear? The answer to the first question is understandably ‘no’, but to my knowledge the second question remains unanswered. Nonetheless, the key message that everyone took with them from the family day was this: MANN+HUMMEL is now actively involved in the field of water filtration.
When I look back on the project, it’s hard to reach any conclusive answers. It’s true to say that the advanced development research project helped us to prove that this kind of water bicycle concept actually works, and that the micro- and ultrafiltration technology developed by our water filtration business unit is perfectly suited to improve the quality of the water substantially. Even though the filtered water does not necessarily meet the standards for certified drinking water, it does without doubt represent a big step forward for potential users. Why then has our water bicycle – or the ‘Aquaduct Concept Vehicle for IDEO‘ mentioned at the beginning of this article – not already been shipped out to help hundreds of thousands of people in the developing countries?
Transportation and filtration at the same time
The answer is simple: two plastic canisters, an ordinary hose pump, tubing and the filtration module itself are much more low-cost than bicycle technology. In most areas of the world where drinking water is in short supply, bicycles are not exactly the most suitable form of transport. A handheld pump or even a few metres of difference in elevation are enough to power a filtration module to meet the water needs of several households; you don’t need a bicycle to do this. In other words, it makes much more sense to keep transport and filtration separate, not least because this will bring more flexibility. That said, the water bicycle project has proven itself worthwhile at two levels. Firstly, it put the spotlight on the new water filtration business unit during the family day. Secondly, it helps raise awareness of the fact that basic resources are all that is required to significantly increase the quality of the water supply in less developed countries – if you simply apply existing technology consistently.
If you want to know more about water filtration, visit us at AquaTech – the world’s leading trade exhibition for process, drinking and waster water – which takes place in Amsterdam (Netherlands) from November 5th – 8th, 2013.