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Brief Published: 8 Jul 2020

Handheld Device Turns Seawater into Drinking Water


London start-up QuenchSea has developed an eponymous desalination device that enables individuals to cleanse seawater into potable freshwater. The portable, low-cost and human-powered device is striking a chord with a growing cohort of survivalist consumers seeking to ready themselves against an uncertain future.

The desalination device is a small lunchbox-sized unit that weighs 0.7kg and features a handlebar for easy carry. The device uses a small hose to suck seawater in from one end, before filtering it throughout the device’s body and filling up a container of safe water.

The device uses a hydraulic system to build pressure and flush water through its various filters. First, a triple-filtration process removes suspended solids, microplastics and parasites. Then the water pushes through a reverse osmosis membrane, which is a roll of extremely thin filter sheets that separate water molecules from larger particles, such as chemical compounds, viruses, bacteria and salts. These processes result in up to a 98% reduction in salinity.

The device is entirely human-powered, with an extendable pole (kept inside the handle) that inserts into the device and acts as a lever that the user pushes backwards and forwards to power the hydraulics. This manual process can produce three litres of drinking water in one hour. 

The company developed QuenchSea to aid populations facing water scarcity and is marketing the product to a broader consumer audience to raise funds to donate devices in these affected areas.

QuenchSea has (to date) garnered upwards of £113,800 ($143,094) (570% of its original goal) in crowdfunding. This success illustrates that survival gear is gaining traction with mainstream consumers who are seeking products that help them be self-sufficient and prepared in case of an emergency.

For more on the commercial potential of survival products and services, see Adapting to a Changing Climate: Product Design Update.