Technology From the Heart
Technology From the Heart
“We don't have a choice of the time and the place of where we're born,” says Keith Lampi, chief operating officer for Hydration Technology Innovations (HTI). “But when we're here, we have the opportunity to make the best of what we have and to do the best that we can for people that are around us.”
The HydroPack™, a 5-inch by 7-inch pouch filled with nutrients and electrolytes developed by HTI to transform overnight dirty water into a clean, healthy drink, has the potential of preventing water-borne diseases and saving thousands of lives.
In winning the 2011 Curator’s Choice Industrial Design Excellence Award (IDEA), the HydroPack™ is a testament to the power of technology and materials being combined to solve a major problem such as hydration in emergency relief situations.
The HydroPack™ uses Forward Osmosis technology and a proprietary membrane based on Eastman™ cellulose triacetate.
“What we're talking about, on one hand, is life, that is, a hydration solution to keep children alive, or death, which occurs when you have the diarrheal illnesses, or the other infections that you get from drinking bad water,” says Dr. Paul K. Carlton, Jr., director, office of innovations and preparedness for the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center. “And so it really is a basis of life versus death.”
According to UNICEF, 1.5 million children die of waterborne illnesses every year. One in five children worldwide die from diarrhea – more than AIDs, malaria and measles combined.
“The freedom from disease is integrally tied with water,” says Dr. Carlton. “And if you have good water, you have freedom from disease in a disaster setting.”
The Curator’s Choice is a new award created by the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).
The IDEA gold, silver, bronze and best-of-show awards are selected by an expert panel of international design professionals.
With The Henry Ford museum one of the main IDEA sponsors, the IDSA introduced the Curator’s Choice award.
“Marc Greuther, chief curator at The Henry Ford, has an expert historical context of innovation over the past two centuries and we felt that his opinion on what constitutes design excellence would provide the design and business community with a unique insight on excellence that we have not had before,” explains Clive Roux, chief executive officer of the IDSA.
“One of the things I liked about the HydroPack™ is its inherent modesty,” says Greuther. “It’s designed to slide into place. It’s a solution to a particular need in a disaster situation. This was not intended to be a big solution to everything. It recognizes real needs – not wants, not preferences, but life or death, and right now.
“The other aspect of it is the degree to which it can be shipped in quantity easily based on the supply chain. And, if necessary, it can be distributed readily – not all that different than passing business cards when it comes down to it.”
Greuther also likes the fact that the HydroPack™ doesn’t come with a lot of strings attached.
“It neither demands massive freighters nor does it preclude the use of massive delivery systems,” he says. “It can fit into a whole number of approaches. This isn’t an artifact or design solution that has all these onerous conditions attached to it – like available electric power or a specific size of helicopter or aircraft.”
Greuther cites the HydroPack™ as a “rare example of a design solution” that is almost all of what renowned designers Charles and Ray Eames called “a method of action.”
“This is an envelope with a powder in it,” Greuther explains. “Once you activate it, you stick in a straw. All you’re looking for is basic sustenance. This enables that transaction to take place. It is extreme economy of means from a user standpoint.”
All 500 IDEA finalists were eligible for the Curator’s Choice award. The HydroPack™ entry was based on its use in Haiti after the earthquake in January 2010 – prior to the packaging design enhancements made later in the year by Modern Edge, the Portland, Oregon, design firm.
“For Haiti alone, we could have saved $750,000 per day in airlift cost by hauling HydroPacks™ instead of bottled water,” says Dr. Carlton. “Put another way, we could have provided 15 times as much relief for the same airlift cost.”
“The HydroPack™ puts Mother Nature to work for you rather than trying to fight it,” says Jos De Wit, senior research associate for Eastman who is working closely with HTI to enhance the cellulosics technology that is the heart of the membrane.
“The membrane is the key to what we do,” adds Lampi. “It's the engine that makes the Forward Osmosis process work. If you don't have a membrane, you don't have a technology. Eastman has made cellulose material for us that meets unique specs that we need for Forward Osmosis to be successful.”
“One of Buckminster Fuller’s tenets is that you should recognize forces that you can be working with rather than fighting against,” notes Greuther. “This was a huge part of his thinking – the lens he was trying to encourage people to train on the world.”
“My dream for the HydroPack is that it be a global tool for early intervention and disaster relief,” says Nathan Jones, vice president of government & institutional sales for HTI. “There is no better tool to use for the early phase of a disaster. It works in any water, it’s guaranteed purity. Very high acceptance rates, very easy to transport. So my goal is that this spreads around the world and help save lives.”
Lampi sums up the HydroPack™ this way: “It's something that's just more than a technology went into; it's something that a heart went into.”