Dean Kamen is an inventor and a great man. I call him great because he intentionally puts his efforts into changing the world for the better.
After 12 years working on these two problems, the engineers at Deka now have their solutions on show at the workshops in Manchester. The first is the 'Slingshot', a large box about the size of an office photocopier, sheathed in black protective foam, that can cleanse water of any contaminant from radionuclides to sewage, and run for years at a time without maintenance. The second is another metal box, five feet square, connected to a bottle of compressed gas, which emits a low murmur of humming energy. This is a Stirling engine, similar to the one installed in his electric car, but large and efficient enough to electrify an entire village, which can be driven by any locally available source of heat. Both devices have already been proved amazingly effective: one six-month test has used a Stirling engine to provide electric light to a village in Bangladesh, powered by burning the methane from a pit filled with cow dung; Slingshot has undergone similar tests in a settlement in rural Guatemala. But Kamen has yet to find a commercial partner to manufacture either of the devices for the customers that need them most. 'The big companies,' he says, 'long ago figured out - the people in the world that have no water and have no electricity have no money.' He's tried the United Nations, too, but discovered a Catch-22: non-governmental organisations won't buy the devices until they're in full production.
Here's on of the things that's broken in the world. Kamen has world changing devices that can't get funded under present systems. Now, that's not totally the case. I've thought of three different vehicles for capital that might work. Anyway...
Just wanted to point out that there's a lot of potential out there in our world. We just have to make it potent. As Kamen puts it, "if you include all the money we've spent on Stirling, and all the money we've spent on the water project, it probably is in the area of $50 million. And I'm a little company, and that's a lot of money. But I believe in it. I just believe in it. It might fail, but you've got to try. Look at the state of the world,' he says. 'It's a mess. What if we can fix it?"