By Michael Bourne

In response to the wave of natural disasters that have pummeled the state, the Florida National Guard will be evaluating over a hundred new handheld water purification devices. The devices were supplied by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense) and the U.S. military and are being evaluated for their utility during disaster relief and hurricane recovery efforts in Florida.

Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan provided a strong reminder of how vulnerable water supplies are in the U.S. Along the Eastern seaboard, hundreds of thousands of people are still being told to boil their water to ensure that it is safe to drink. Power outages made that impossible for many, so the demand for bottled water quickly sapped supply.

 “Providing clean drinking water is of the utmost concern and we will be evaluating these purifiers for their utility in providing safe drinking water in an easy and cost-effective manner,” said Colonel Glenn Sutphin, Legislative Director, Department of Military Affairs, Florida National Guard. “We will also provide state agencies throughout Florida with these portable water purification devices to get their feedback.”

 The MSR MIOX Water Purifier was developed in a joint effort between Mountain Safety Research (MSR), a Seattle, Wash.-based outdoor gear manufacturer and MIOX Corporation, an Albuquerque, N.M.-based pioneer in mixed-oxidant water purification technology. Funding was provided from the DARPA. Testing was also conducted by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, Fla. (NSWC-PC). The NSWC-PC distributed the MSR MIOX purifiers to the Florida National Guard.

The MSR MIOX Water Purifier was developed for use by the U.S. military and is currently being used by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This device allows a soldier or a civilian to purify any fresh water that can be obtained. The MSR MIOX Purifier is a unique technology that uses electrolysis to effectively eliminate common waterborne pathogens such as E. Coli, Giardia,  Cryptospori-dium, as well as chemical warfare agents like Soman, VX (a nerve gas), Lewisite (a blister agent), and the biological agents causing anthrax, plague and smallpox. (Dwell time is based on military requirements, which do not include inactivating Cryptosporidium. Unlike iodine, the MSR MIOX Purifier is effective against Cryptosporidium, but may require a wait time of several hours.)

Easy to use and reliable, this lightweight, handheld device is about the size of a Magic Marker and uses two small lithium camera batteries to convert salt into a powerful disinfectant. This is the same process currently used by many municipal water facilities. The pen has an indefinite shelf life, requires only common table salt and will purify up to 200 liters (50 gallons) of water on a single set of batteries. Replace the batteries and the pen is ready to use again. The purifier’s small size and ability to treat up to one gallon or water at a time makes it ideal for any situation requiring pure water.

DARPA sought assistance from the NSWC-PC to serve as the liaison between the development team and the military. NSWC-PC played a key role in providing input on Department of Defense mission requirements, participated in design trade-off analysis, and product configuration. NSWC-PC also helped refine the product instructions, packaging, and training materials.

With support from the NSWC-PC, the MSR MIOX Purifier was launched successfully into the military in 2003. The first 1,000 units were shipped to the U.S. Marine Corps. U.S Special Forces, Air Force, and Army units in Afghanistan and Iraq have also successfully used this product. Popular Science magazine named the MSR MIOX Purifier as the “Grand Award Winner for General Innovation” in their Best of What’s New Awards.  The purifier’s inactivation performance also exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Guide Standard and Protocol for Microbiological Purifiers” in independent laboratory studies in late 2002.

About Mountain Safety Research (MSR)
Author Michael Bourne represents Mountain Safety Research, MSR, a division of Seattle, Wash.-based Cascade Designs Inc. MSR has been providing essential gear for challenging environments for over 30 years with product lines including stoves, water filters and purifiers, tents, snowshoes, cookware, climbing gear, fuel and related accessories. For more information on MSR visit or contact Bourne at (650) 210-9857 or [email protected].


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