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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Evaluation of the Sustainable Purification System (SPS)

Evaluation of the Sustainable Purification System (SPS)

English 2100: Technical Writing

Salt lake community college

April 24th, 2019


The Sustainable Purification System (SPS) is a transportable water purification system created by a team of students in Texas. This machine is competing with other methods of water purification for viability and effectiveness in several areas. Overview includes how effective the water purification system is versus a fixed system ,where it can be reliably deployed in a effective manner, and a estimated cost for producing and transporting one of these machines.

1.  Introduction

I have long been interested in helping the development of renewable energy technology. I have wanted to explore avenues where I could use my desire of green energy solutions to help solve the problems facing the world today. I am majoring in mechanical engineering, and exploring recent innovations in the field will help me to better understand what the career will possibly entail. This lead me to a new design for a water purification system powered by solar energy that was created by a team of mechanical engineers at LeTourneau University called the Sustainable Purification System (SPS) [1]. I wanted to explore the specifications of this machine, and how it can be applied in the real world. I am going to focus on three areas of inquiry into the design: How effective it is versus other methods of water purification, where it can be reliable implemented, and how cost effective it is. I will admit that I have not taken any engineering classes yet so the more technical aspects I will have to rely heavily on other sources. But, my hope is that this will give me insight into how a mechanical engineering career operates at a technical level.

2.  Effectiveness versus current standards for water purification

The first thing I wanted to look at was how the specs compared to a system that is currently in use in Haiti. In 2010 a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti killing 200,000 people and leaving 1.5 million people homeless [2]. This lead the students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical university to create Project Haiti [3]. The project was a permanent solar powered water purification system that was installed at Onaville which had a population of about 100,000 people. In 2010, Project Haiti was initially able to pump out purified water at a rate of 3.8 L/min. The Sustainable purification system is currently testing at a consistent 7.1 L/min. While the SPS shows a significant improvement to the overall rate of water purification when compared to the initial Project Haiti many other factors go into how effective a project can be. In 2012, Project Haiti ramped up their system expanding it to a massive 76 L/min. This means we would need 11 SPS’s to compete with Project Haiti.

We also need to factor in the amount of energy needed to operate the machines and purify the water. Both machines operate off of solar energy so we will focus on the amount of energy needed to power the machine. When operating Project Haiti needs an estimated 1,162 watts to operate for a whole day. The need to prevent bacteria growth requires the machine to be operating at all times with the UV filter preventing any growth. They accounted for the unpredictability of access to the sun for energy by including a battery the could hold up to two days worth of charge in case of poor sunlight conditions. The SPS was shown in testing to require 98 watts to power the machine effectively. If we multiply the number by 11 to get roughly the same L/min as Project Haiti we end up with 1,078 watts. This makes the SPS slightly more energy efficient if we run 11 SPS at the same time to compete with one Project Haiti.

Overall the SPS is just as efficient as other systems currently implemented by today standards and is completely viable on this front. I will now look at how the SPS could possibly handle real world situations.

3.  Potential uses in real world situations

One of the major advantages that the SPS has over other large water purification systems is that it is built and contained entirely in a single shipping container. This provides the SPS some unique applications that other fixed systems couldn’t fill. In the event of a natural disaster such as a large earthquake, or tsunami, fixed water purification systems can be damaged or even destroyed. Energy grids could be knocked out and other traditional power methods would potential be disrupted. A solar powered SPS could be transported to places where people need water and would be able to function independently. One issue with this method would be trying to access remote locations or in areas severely impeded by naturals disasters. The SPS is housed in a 20 foot shipping container and would have trouble being sent to areas with difficult terrain. Another instance where it could be useful is when driving long distances between small villages that have need of water. An SPS could be set up in a small village for a week or so, and pump out a bunch of purified water that could be stored for a extended amount of time. Then the SPS could be packed up and moved to the next village along the way. Using this method could provide water to multiple villages using only one SPS. It would appear that the SPS has the capability to fill a niche role in the humanitarian effort to provide water to people in need and could fill a role that other water purification systems could not. So let us look at how much this would cost to see if it is financially feasible to build one or more of these machines.

4.  Cost analysis

There are many factors when determining cost effectiveness for a project like this. Unfortunately I was unable to find out exactly how much they spent on building the SPS. So I will just have to use my best estimates and compare to other similar projects. First, the SPS is contained in what I estimated to be a standard 20 feet long shipping container. According to the average shipping container costs anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 U.S. dollars [4]. I decided to go with an average of 2,000 dollars for this analysis. The SPS and Project Haiti use almost identical components in their design so I will be using their cost sheet to help determine the rough estimated cost of the SPS components. The components for Project Haiti amounted to 7,570 dollars for the mechanical components, and 7,380 dollars for the electrical components for a total of 14,950 dollars overall [3]. We do have to account for the size difference between the two with project haiti being 11 times larger than the SPS. Dividing the 14,950 by 11 gives use 1,360 dollars, and when we add that to the cost of the shipping container we end up with a rough estimate of 3,360 dollars per SPS. Now we have to look at the cost of shipping the SPS to its destination. The rates vary wildly but I was able to find a rate of 2,000 to 3,000 dollars for overseas shipping [5], and 1.5 to 3 dollars for an average of 2.25 dollars per mile locally [6]. As far as maintenance goes the only thing that would be need to be replaced annually would be the UV bulb used for sterilization of the water. This costs around 75 dollars according to the Project Haiti specs and would be the only thing that needed to be replaced regularly.

5.  Conclusion

While there may never be a single solution to the world’s water crisis. The multitude of differing situations call for different solutions. This rough analysis of the SPS hopes to show the ways in which a innovative team of mechanical engineers can work to solve the problems of today. My goal was to explore a recent advancement in the major I am interested in. After researching the specifics of not only the SPS, but the plethora of other water purification systems and their effect on the people in need. I want to be able to work in a career that provides a better future for this world.


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