Don’t Kick This Ball

As the world warms, shortages of fresh water will loom as ever increasing challenge around the world. In many poorer countries, salvation may not lie in technological breakthroughs like nuclear desalination, but much cheaper and simpler applications of existing basic technology.

Here’s one smart idea that sounds more like a toy than a tool: Solarball.

It’s the brainchild of Jonathan Liow, a recent graduate of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, who came up with the idea for his final year project in industrial design.

It consists of a plastic sphere with a dark bottom half that absorbs sunlight, evaporating any dirty water inside. The clean vapor condenses on the clear plastic above, dripping down to a collector where it can be stored.

The ingeniously simple and rugged ball produces up to three liters of water a day for drinking—enough for a person to get by in a pinch, or to supplement other meager supplies.

“After visiting Cambodia in 2008, and seeing the immense lack of everyday products we take for granted, I was inspired to use my design skills to help others,” Liow said. “The challenge was coming up with a way to make the device more efficient than other products available, without making it too complicated, expensive, or technical.”

Solarball was a finalist in the 2011 Australian Design Awards and will be exhibited at the Milan International Design Fair next month.

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