U.S. Water News Online
PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. -- Victims of the Indian Ocean
tsunami will soon benefit from water purification devices the size of
a marking pen that were recently developed for the military.
Two companies that make the purifier and the Department of Defense
are sending 1,200 of the devices and instructors to Asia for the
The miniature purifier will make only a small difference there,
but it could aid many more victims of future disasters, including
hurricanes and floods, as its use spreads, said Frank Downs, a senior
scientist at the Panama City Naval Surface Warfare Center.
Downs helped develop the 3.5-ounce, shock- and freeze-proof MSR
MIOX Purifier made by Miox Corp. of Albuquerque, N.M., and Mountain
Safety Research Inc. of Seattle, Wash.
The device runs on a lithium camera battery and destroys common
waterborne pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa as well
as anthrax, bubonic plague, smallpox and other contaminants.
"It is the municipal water supply treatment process that's reduced
down to a small pen," Downs said. "It's the same process they use at
the water plant."
The device converts salt water into a solution similar to a
chlorine liquid disinfectant that then can be used to purify a gallon
of drinking water in about 45 minutes.
A few were distributed to Florida National Guard troops during
hurricane recovery efforts last year.
"The National Guard is looking at this technology now for the next
disaster we have in the U.S.," Downs said.
In disasters such as hurricanes municipal water systems usually
are restored first, but water still often needs to be boiled, he
said. That task can be difficult for those without electrical power.
The miniature purifier would reduce the need for bottled water, Downs
It is an improvement on iodine tablets used since World War II
because iodine doesn't kill all contaminants and leaves water with a
bad taste, Downs said.
Miox introduced the technology in the 1990s. The Defense Advanced
Research Project Agency, or DARPA, then partnered with MIOX and MSR,
which makes outdoor gear, to develop the purifier.
Downs served as a technical assistant and liaison. He used
military troops to test it and identify changes needed before it went
Environmental Protection Agency certification was sought in 2002
so the purifier could be sold commercially, which meant it could
avoid additional military testing and get to the troops quicker,
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