Segway Inventor’s New Device Turns Sewage into Clean Water

The inventor of the Segway has come up with a revolutionary invention that could provide access to clean water for millions of people.

The Segway personal motorized scooter was meant to be a breakthrough transportation device—but these days, it’s a novelty that’s probably best known as the ride of choice for Arrested Development’s wayward magician, GOB. Though it looks like the Segway won’t become the next Schwinn, the device’s inventor, Dean Kamen, isn’t dwelling on it. Instead, Kamen is finalizing his next big invention, the Slingshot, which promises to solve one of the world’s biggest problems: a lack of clean water.

While water is widely available, many water sources are filled with contaminants that cause often-fatal diseases like diarrhea. More than 1.1 billion people around the globe lack access to clean water sources, and a child dies from a waterborne illness every 15 seconds. The water crisis is one of the most critical problems of our time.

Kamen is intent on solving it with his invention, which is named for the slingshot that the Biblical hero David used against the giant Goliath. “We believe the world needs a slingshot to take care of its Goliath of a problem in water,” Kamen told CNN. “So we decided to build a small machine and give it to the little Davids.”

The Slingshot is a small, portable electric device that can turn contaminated liquid of any kind—even raw sewage—into clean drinking water. If it is distributed to communities in developing countries, it can prevent countless people from falling ill because of dirty drinking water, and will give girls the opportunity to attend school, rather than traveling for miles to fetch clean water from faraway wells.

One Slingshot can provide enough clean water for 100 people each day, but the machine is still considered to be too expensive for mass distribution—each one costs about $200,000 to create. But Kamen is dedicated to making his new invention a success, and is working on building corporate partnerships that will hopefully bring down the cost of the device down to $2,000 each.

“It is literally like turning lead into gold,” said Kamen. “But I believe it’s more important, because you can’t drink lead or gold.”

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