If the development plan is working we have made a mistake!
”It all began when the Carter Centre asked us to produce textile filters against the dreadful guinea worm,” says director of development, Torben Vestergaard Frandsen.
”The Carter Centre, founded by the former American president Jimmy Carter, inspired us to develop a straw to put and end to the spread of the guinea worm, a parasite absorbed through drinking water. It lives in the body for one year and reached a length of one meter before it penetrates the skin of the host in order to go back into the water to lay eggs. A real monster! We made a straw based on textile. I appeared to be quite efficient, says Torben Vestergaard Frandsen.
”With that success it was obvious to say: Why not make a straw that can prevent all deceases caused by dirty water?
99.9999 % clean water
That question led to LifeStraw. The straw that cleans 99.9999 % of the water was not realized in one day. It took several steps of development for Torben Frandsen and his to fellow developers Rob Fleuren (Holland) and Moshe Frommer (Israel) to create a design strong enough to resist the extreme conditions of the third world.
”And we had to work hard as well developing the inner system of chambers and filters, says Torben Vestergaard Frandsen.
”More than one thousand tests were needed to find the right design and combination of filters and chambers inside the straw. The water needs to pass the filters and chambers in a specific periode of time in order to be cleaned and the chambers therefore must have the proper size,” explains Torben Vestergaard Frandsen.
Field tests in Congo
Two American Instituts are at the moment making scientific tests in Congo and Etiopia to obtain the official approval for lifeStraw which is necessary to sell world wide.
”Our tests show that LifeStraw purifies the water 99.9999 % for germs and 99.99% for virus. The water is technically as clean as it can be when it has passed through LifeStraw. It especially fights cholera and typhoid, some of the pathogens killing most people in the third world,” says Torben Vestergaard Frandsen." All thouhg the LifeStraw cannot remove some kind of bad taste and chemicals such as oil.
Long proces of development
The long process of development has been self financed.
”That gave us total freedom when we discovered new opportunities along the road. We simply didn’t have to spend time asking investors to do this or that.”
”The process has led to a number of spin off designs using e.g. the gravity as a driving force of the filtering process. We have developed cleaning systems for groups of refugees and households.
A sick child who cannot use a straw can in that way get clean water as well.
There is still 2 -3 years to go, with field studies, before LifeStraw is ready to sell world wide. The long process of development has not affected Torben Vestergaard Frandsen. ”A Swedish colleague of mine has said: If the plan of development stays on track you have made a mistake!
”Every time you open a door to get an answer you will find 12 new doors with questions behind,” explains Torben Vestergaard Frandsen. ”In that manner we have created an entire Water Centre in our firm. We can now use all the experience and knowledge we have gained through the long and very creative process of development of LifeStraw.”
Other competing companies have given up facing the problems of developing a well working system of water cleaning filtres. The INDEX:award is an encouragement in cool cash to a team that never have failure as an option.