PANAMA CITY (NNS) -- Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Panama City (PC), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Department of Defense's Office of Technology Transition and commercial industry have joined U.S. elite forces to produce and field a miniaturized water-purification system that destroys biological and chemical warfare agents.
These agents include anthrax, plague, smallpox and common waterborne pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, including E. Coli, Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
"The purpose for developing the water disinfection technology was to provide the warfighter a portable water purification device during tactical missions - a key lesson learned in a number of previous conflicts," said DARPA's Special Assistant Operational Liaison Air Force Col. Jose Negron.
DARPA contracted with MIOX Corporation and Cascade to refine and commercialize the MIOX Purifier, and miniaturize the MIOX technology down to the approximate size of a felt-tipped pen - small enough for the individual soldier.
Military Affairs Manager for Cascade Designs Kevin Gallagher said the 3.5-ounce MIOX Purifier uses the power from two camera batteries to convert saltwater into a mixed oxidant solution - basically a chlorine-based liquid disinfectant. The pen produces about two milliliters of mixed oxidant within about 30 seconds, which is then added to the water gathered by the soldier before he drinks it.
"Almost any type of salt will work," said Gallagher. "You can use regular table salt, rock salt or water-softener salt."
The user can treat anywhere from a half liter of water up to four liters of water at a time, including the standard two-liter volume carried within a CamelBak hydration bag.
According to Gallagher, unlike with use of iodine or chlorine tablets, the water tastes very good, as long as the purifier is properly dosed. Purity of the water can be verified with a safety indicator strip. No pumping is required to treat the water, and the generation of the mixed-oxidant disinfectant solution is almost instantaneous.
Gallagher said the pen supplies enough energy to purify up to 50 gallons of water, which takes about 30 minutes for the process to produce safe drinking water.
Warren's strategy paid off, rendering early and effective prototypes that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "Guide Standard and Protocol for Microbiological Purifiers" in independent laboratory studies of 2002.
The project reached completion during the summer of 2004, according to NSWC PC's Coastal Maritime Security Research and Development Senior Scientist Frank Downs.
"Once the device met the needs of the EPA protocol, we had a commercial-off-the-shelf product," Downs said. "This eliminated the need to meet DoD Mil-Spec requirements, yielding further reductions in time and costs."
The Water Purification System/Water Pen Unit was funded as a Technology Transition Initiative (TTI) project in FY 2003 and FY 2004 to bridge the gap between DARPA's development funding and scheduled procurement in FY 2005. The TTI program facilitates the rapid transition of new/mature technologies from DoD science and technology programs into acquisition programs for production. TTI funding allows successful demonstration of these technologies and accelerates their introduction to the armed forces. The TTI program funded the purchase of 6500 Water Pens, accelerating their introduction and use throughout the Services and Special Operations Command by an estimated 18-24 months.
Negron commended DARPA predecessors Bill Warren and the late Mike Gardos for their management strategy.
"DARPA helped accelerate the miniaturization of the disinfection pen, thus reducing the logistic tail requirements for the services," said Neuron.
Negron added the MIOX Purifier could be used for disaster relief after a hurricane or when a humanitarian need exists to disinfect water sources already contaminated.
Describing his original intentions for the purification concept, MIOX Vice President of Engineering, Research and Development, Rodney Herrington, said his idea was to create "an effective device in the hands of anyone in the world that would need it - something that just used regular salt and some batteries to save lives."
The purifier is available through the Government Services Administration (GSA) Web site (GSA #GS-07F-5451R) or through the Department of Defense's National Stock Number catalog (NSN #4610-01-513-8498).
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