Two engineers invent a machine that produces drinking water

Two engineers invent a machine that produces drinking water

When he registered a few months ago for the famous Concours Lépine, Paul Minot thought he would be able to have one more experience in an already full engineering career. At 54, this father, an entrepreneur in the telecoms field for fifteen years, found himself among two hundred other participants to present his innovative project, a machine that produces drinking water from any non-salted water source. And the audacity paid off since, on May 10, the innovation was rewarded with a gold medal, after an uncompromising evaluation of the project.

Using rainwater

As is often the case, the good idea came from a very ordinary observation: why can’t we use rainwater for personal consumption, Paul Minot asked himself? French law is very strict on the issue: it authorizes this “gray water” for flushing toilets or watering, but never for food, because it often contains various pollutants. So, what can be done to quickly make it suitable for consumption?

“The intuition came at around 11 p.m.,” recalls the inventor. A first draft of a prototype with multiple filters was born. Over the months, the project was refined and its objective broadened. “When I lived in Senegal, I saw children getting sick because of unsanitary water; an unbearable situation,” says Paul Minot. While nearly a quarter of the world’s population does not have access to drinking water, a machine that is easy to use and move, and does not use energy or chemicals, seemed like the perfect invention to meet this challenge locally. Auguste, 23, then joined his father for development and international marketing.

The scientific guarantee remained. Paul and Auguste contacted Bernard Legube, a water treatment specialist who worked at the University of Poitiers (Vienne). “When they presented their first prototype, I was a little wary. The machine certainly made it possible to filter pathogenic bacteria and viruses, but I wondered about the pollutant molecules dissolved in the water.” Pesticides, herbicides, PFAS, heavy metals: the list of these micropollutants is long, even in countries with strict regulations. Paul Minot added special filters to his device, such as the activated carbon filter or this other one, unique in its kind and distributed by an American company, which retains toxic molecules.

“The result obtained is astonishing,” admits Bernard Legube, who had the machine’s efficiency tested by a laboratory. River water taken directly from the Marne and poured into a large funnel placed above the all-metal device passes through the various filters using a very simple hand pump. No chemistry, no electronics: the simplicity of the device is its greatest asset, compared to its competitors. The device, practical and easy to maintain, can produce up to a thousand liters of water per hour, immediately consumable.

Patented, the invention has become the flagship product of a family start-up employing around fifteen people. A first offer, aimed at individuals and businesses, will be launched this July. Various NGOs and institutions – including the French army – have also expressed interest. “Given the catastrophic health situation in certain districts of Mayotte, such machines could provide a rapid response to facilitate access to drinking water and limit the health crisis,” believes Bernard Legube. The same in Martinique, whose waters have been contaminated for decades by chlordecone, a pesticide with devastating effects.

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