Before I say anything else, I want to thank The Coca-Cola Company for asking me to serve as a guest on this blog. DEKA and I are thrilled that we have forged such an exciting partnership with Muhtar Kent and the Coca-Cola team to help dramatically increase access to clean water for people around the world. While some may think that this partnership seems a bit out of the ordinary for both parties involved, in truth, it couldn’t be more logical or beneficial.


Thirty years ago, I founded DEKA Research & Development Corp. in Manchester, New Hampshire. Today, DEKA employs more than 300 engineers who are developing innovative solutions for some of the world’s largest medical companies. Our products have touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, from the HomeChoice dialysis system to the iBOT, a self-balancing wheelchair that can climb stairs. Currently, DEKA is also developing an advanced prosthetic arm with DARPA to help our returning veterans.

While these medical projects have been my “day job,” I have spent much of my free time focusing on other initiatives that are deeply important to me. More than twenty years ago, I founded FIRST (, a non-profit organization that uses robotics competitions to get kids excited about science and technology. And for more than the past decade, my engineers and I have focused on developing a water purification system called the Slingshot, a machine that is designed to tackle one of the world’s most challenging issues: increasing access to clean drinking water.

“Slingshot” was the internal codename we used at DEKA because we were inspired by the tale of David and Goliath. As the story goes, little David was able to defeat his formidable foe by using a simple yet elegant piece of technology – the slingshot. Today, more than two billion people around the world have little or no access to clean water, and over 50 percent of hospital beds are occupied due to water-related illnesses. To many, the global water crisis may seem just as insurmountable as Goliath, but I believe that the right piece of technology can topple even the most formidable opponent.

The Slingshot technology works by replicating nature – it distills water through evaporation and condensation. More specifically, the Slingshot is a vapor-compression distillation system that uses heat and pressure to evaporate water and condense it back into liquid. The resulting water is purely distilled, and all of the bad “stuff” is flushed away in a controlled manner. The Slingshot, like nature, is indifferent to whatever is contaminating the water, be it organic or inorganic. In other words, the Slingshot will deliver pure water from any liquid source. Since it requires no filters or other consumables like chlorine, the machine is easy to maintain and runs quietly on its own. It also exchanges and reuses heat very efficiently, thus dramatically reducing the power requirements to operate. In fact, the Slingshot needs only 1 kW to operate, which is less than the power required to run a handheld hair dryer.

Before entering into this partnership, Coca-Cola and DEKA conducted a successful field trial of the Slingshot technology at five schools outside Accra, Ghana in 2011. We provided 140,000 liters of clean drinking water to 1,500 school children during a six-month trial. The Slingshot systems experienced very few technical issues and were able to operate despite the frequent power outages in the villages in which they were located.

These field trials were determined to be a success, and today we can proudly announce that The Coca-Cola Company is our flagship partner to help bring the Slingshot technology into volume production and, by leveraging their worldwide, best-in-class distribution capabilities, install and maintain thousands of units around the world. Coca-Cola’s unparalleled global reach, combined with its focus on water stewardship and sustainability and the extraordinary vision of Muhtar Kent, makes the company an effective and impactful partner. Together with our regional partners, the Inter-American Development Bank and Africare, we are planning field tests of the Slingshot units in Latin America and Africa in 2013. We will then quickly ramp-up production and install thousands of units annually to provide an estimated half a billion liters or more of clean drinking water a year to those in need around the world.

We still have a lot of work to do, but we are more confident than ever that with our partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, we can finally use our Slingshot to help slay the Goliath of water deprivation and work to create happier, healthier people around the globe.

Dean Kamen is founder and president of DEKA Research and Development Corporation, which partners with medical industry leaders to introduce new technologies that transform lives. Kamen is an inventor, an entrepreneur, and a tireless advocate for science and technology. He holds more than 440 U.S. and foreign patents, many of them for innovative medical devices that have expanded the frontiers of health care worldwide.