2013-07-14

"Twitter Dress" Creators Build Machine To Drink Their Own Sweat

Last we we covered a group of Swedish designers making a political statement through a wearable computing device. Then they told us they had another project in the works—with even wider-reaching implications.



Hot on the heels of its Twitter Dress, Swedish design agency Deportivo has teamed up with renowned engineer Andreas Hammar in a campaign to harness the summer’s least-popular attraction—sweat—for clean water.

Extracting the sweat turns out to be as easy as throwing a load of clothes in to dry. Sweaty clothes tumble around a modified dryer so the warm and moist air cools and the sweat is condensed. A full load of sweaty shirts gives about half a liter of sweat, which flows against a Teflon membrane. Vapor flows through the membrane pores, which at about 0.2 µm across are large enough for water molecules to pass through, and into a cooled surface, which condenses the water into a container. There it’s ready to drink.

Here’s how they built it.

Sweat-catching machines are old territory for the thinkers of tomorrow: Author Frank Herbert envisioned "stillsuits" that preserved moisture from sweat and waste as key equipment to surviving the harsh desert in his Dune series. But Sweat For Water’s sweat-collecting machine only catches the stuff that saturates shirts under the hot sun—it won’t be collecting and processing urine like the astronauts do on the International Space Station.

The project is part of the "Sweat for Water" campaign with UNICEF and youth soccer’s Gothia Cup, Deportivo and Hammar created a machine to extract sweat from clothes and purify it for drinkability. The machine is functional—its creators say the first in the world—and built to draw attention to the vast amount of moisture the world sweats in a day—enough to fill fourteen hundred Olympic swimming pools. The campaign will debut the technology at the upcoming Gothia Cup, where famous soccer players Tobias Hysén and Mohammed Ali Khan will be the first to gulp glasses of purified water. Attendees will be able to visit stations to dump their sweaty clothes and drink down cups of water that, once purified, are actually cleaner than that coming out of Swedish taps.

Over 780 million people worldwide—over a tenth of Earth’s population—lack access to clean water, contributing to a vicious cycle of hygeine and sanitation problems. Sweat For Water will piggyback on a fundraising campaign for water purification tablets alongside Gothia Cup’s celebration of international competition. Global deployment of sweat machines may be far in the future, for now, the Sweat for Water campaign is satisfied with bringing the world’s attention to all the good that can come from a hamper of dirty clothes.

[Image: Flickr user Thanakrit Gu]




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