Kit Up!

Army Wants a Portable Seawater Purifier for Troops

Sgt. Daniel Baudoin, a water purification specialist with the 240th Composite Supply Company of Baumholder, Germany, proudly displays his battalion crest June 2, 2018 which contains freshly purified water he and his team produced. (Michigan Army National Guard/Spc. Aaron Good)
Sgt. Daniel Baudoin, a water purification specialist with the 240th Composite Supply Company of Baumholder, Germany, proudly displays his battalion crest June 2, 2018 which contains freshly purified water he and his team produced. (Michigan Army National Guard/Spc. Aaron Good)

U.S. Army equipment officials are asking the commercial market to gin up a new, soldier-carried water purifier that can even make seawater drinkable.

"The objective of this research is to develop a soldier-portable device that can remove salts from seawater and brackish water sources to produce drinking water at a rate of 1 liter/hour/soldier [for] up to a maximum of 9 people," according to a Aug. 24 solicitation posted on www.sibr.gov.

The Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, program is designed to encourage small business to engage in federal research and development, according to the site.

Currently, the Army uses iodine and Chlor-Floc treatment kits for emergency water purification, which are "effective at disinfecting microbiological organisms in freshwater systems only."

Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment has been developing an individual water treatment device, or IWTD, to help soldiers to obtain emergency drinking water from any indigenous water source, according to the solicitation.

"While the initial increment of IWTD will be microbiological purification of indigenous fresh water, the ultimate goal will be to purify water from any source (fresh water, brackish water or seawater)," the solicitation states.

The first increment of IWTD is scheduled to be fielded sometime this year, according to the solicitation.

"The main drawback in developing a portable desalination unit is that the current commercial technologies for large-scale desalination generally do not scale down very well to adequately serve the needs of individual water treatment systems," the solicitation states. "We are soliciting new ideas to overcome current deficiencies in the current state-of-the-art desalination technologies."

The solicitation opens September 24 and closes October 24, the solicitation states.

Higher consideration will be given to technologies that meet or approach the following guidelines:

  • Capable of desalinating 135 liters before replacement of any of the components.
  • Lightweight, with a total system weight of 16 ounces.
  • This should be a man-portable device.
  • Produce desalinated water at a flow rate of no less than one liter per hour, per person.

The device should also be "human powered" with a "treat-to-drink time" of less than 20 minutes, the solicitation states.

"System cost for one person should be [less than] $200 at full-scale manufacturing," it adds.

Phase one the program "should result in an innovative proof of concept device with desalination technology," according to the solicitation.

Prototypes will come in phase two.

"These prototypes shall be testing against artificial, actual seawater, and brackish water sources to prove the meet the ... requirements," according to the solicitation.

Under the third and final phase, the initial use of this technology will be to provide soldiers with portable hydration systems which will "purify water from any indigenous water source in emergency situations and should be easily transitioned to other branches of the armed forces as well," the solicitation states.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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