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Individual Soldier / Small Unit Desalination Device



OBJECTIVE: The objective of this research is to develop a soldier-portable device that can remove salts from seawater and brackish water sources to produce drinking water at a rate of 1 liter/hour/Soldier up to a maximum of 9 people. Additionally, this device will require no or minimal external power requirements 

DESCRIPTION: Currently the US Army uses Iodine and Chlor-Floc Treatment kits for emergency water purification. These systems are effective at disinfecting microbiological organisms in fresh water systems only. The US Army Product Manager – Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment has been developing an Individual Water Treatment Device (IWTD) with the goal of enabling Soldiers to obtain emergency drinking water from any indigenous water source. The first increment of IWTD will be fielded to Soldiers in 2018 and will also be used for emergency water purification of microorganisms in fresh water sources. While the initial increment of IWTD will be microbiological purification of indigenous fresh water, the ultimate goal will be to purify water from any source (fresh water, brackish water or seawater). The main drawback in developing a portable desalination unit is that the current commercial technologies for large-scale desalination generally do not scale-down very well to adequately serve the needs of individual water treatment systems. Large scale desalination requires vast amounts of power and produce a vast amount of highly concentrated brine at a high cost. Additionally, current commercially available personal desalination systems still remain costly and cannot meet the requirements listed below (weight, power, size). Therefore, we are soliciting new ideas to overcome current deficiencies in the current state-of-the-art desalination technologies. Higher consideration will be given to technologies that meet or approach the following guidelines: • Capable of desalinating 135 Liters per person (up to 9 people) before replacement of any of the elements and/or components. • Lightweight, with a total system weight of 16 ounces/person (up to 9 people maximum) - dry weight. • This should be a man-portable device. • Produce desalinated water at a flow rate of no less than 1 Liter/hour/person. • Satisfy a 6 foot drop to concrete and 300 lbs dynamic and static compression while dry. • Human powered systems are preferred. If batteries or other electronic components are required, they shall be commercially available and included in the total system weight for the entire Service Life of the unit. • Capable of being used and operated with water temperatures from 4°C to 49°C, in environments with temperature from -33°C to 52°C • Treat to drink time of less than 20 minutes with no more than 15 minutes/hour of hands-on time. • Be compatible with the current IWTD or provide microbiological purification in accordance with NSF Protocol P248.2 • Eliminate, or be compatible with, systems that remove chemical contamination(Arsenic, Chloride, Cyanide, Magnesium and sulfate).1 • System cost for one person should be <$200 at full scale manufacturing. 

PHASE I: This SBIR Phase I should result in an innovative proof of concept device with desalination technology that can meet the Army’s need for a Soldier-portable unit as described above. Phase I deliverables would include a bench scale demonstration of the technology, cost/benefit analysis report, a plan to scale technology, and technical report 

PHASE II: This phase of the program should result in the development and construction of four useable prototypes based on Phase 1 work. These prototypes shall be testing against artificial, actual seawater, and brackish water sources to prove the meet the above requirements. Phase II deliverables would also include a final report documenting the development of the system, test results compared to the objectives and the technical data package to build the system, and a plan for commercialization. 

PHASE III: The initial use of this technology will be to provide soldiers with portable hydration systems which will purify water from any indigenous water source in emergency situations and should be easily transitioned to other branches of the armed forces as well. If successful, this technology will find use in a number of other sectors. The most immediate need is in underdeveloped countries in which clean drinking water is scarce and purification is expensive. The world’s water supply becoming more contaminated and clean water becoming scarcer, there will be a greater call for purification systems that can provide clean drinking water for individuals, small groups or communities. This may pique the interest of government agencies, NGOs, other nonprofits and investors as a piece of the solution of the world’s water crisis. 


1: Technical Bulletin Medical (TB MED) 577: Sanitary Control and Surveillance of Field Water Supplies. United States Department of the Army, 2013.

2:  NSF Protocol P248: Military Operations Microbiological Water Purifiers, NSF International, 2012.

3:  Technical Manual (TM) 5-813-8, Water Desalination, Department of the Army, 1986.

4:  ATP 4-44 MCRP 3-17.7Q

5:  Water Support Operations

6:  October 2015. TO BE UPLOADED WITH TOPIC.

KEYWORDS: Hydration, Desalination, Individual, Protection, Purification, Solider, Squad, Sustainment, Water 


Eric Brack 

(508) 233-4273 

Thomas Tiano 

(508) 233-4868 

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