Business Strategy, Design Thinking, Product Development

There are two key problems that need to be addressed. The first is that 3/4 of a Billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. This results in millions of deaths a year. Many organizations work tirelessly to address this problem but spend a sizable portion of their budget on nonsustainable solutions to keep their to keep their patrons and personnel safe. The primary solution is to ship in bottled water or to set up bio-sand filters. While the cost and waste associated with bottled water are well known, bio-sand can be much of a mystery. Bio-sand filters are cheap to set up ($60) but take weeks to install. The result is a filter that can reduce pathogens by 80% greatly reducing the risk of waterborne illness, but does not eliminate it altogether.

Japanese Red Cross Worker

This is a problem that has a lot of funding behind it. The Red Cross reports spending $101Million each year on water and sanitation while the United Nations has 118,000 personnel on the ground at any given moment, most of which are operating in environments without proper sanitation or centralized plumbing. The goal of the LUV-Water project is to provide an affordable, portable solution that can be quickly set up in disaster areas to be used for community water purification while more permanent systems are installed or repaired. We are able to do this by integrating a few established technologies in an innovative and novel way.


The LUV-Water purifier uses two separate systems. The first harnessing the weight of the water to generate electric power. By capturing the energy of gravity acting on a container of water over a distance we are able to consistently generate enough electricity to power the purification system. The consistency with which we generate electricity is one of many differentiators embedded in the LUV water system.

The second system enables the unit to purify water in the dirtiest of environments. Again, we are pairing two established technologies in a novel way to create exceptional results. By using a coarse particulate filter we are able to control the clarity of the water being treating by UV-LEDs and limit the volume of the water being treated to concentrate the effect of the UV light. This allows us to treat water as it is being poured from a jug or jerry can. The cap houses the electricity gathered from the base, and can be taken with the jerry can to be used in another location while the base can be used to charge countless caps. This system is scalable to meet the needs of families, project teams, and entire villages.

Brian Yankello, Radhika Sawhney, Ben Lewis, and Andy Novak

The LUV-Water team came together in September around the issue of addressing clean water problems. Our team has experience with previous startups, Design & Production, business & marketing, Water Purification, and Mechanical Engineering.


To date, the LUV-Water team has made some key contacts in the UV-LED industry and has constructed a testing platform for further development. In February of 2014 we were valued at $100,000 by ThrillMill with an offer to invest $5,000 for 5% of the company. We analyzed the offer and concluded that we should work towards a higher valuation before surrendering any equity in the venture. With opportunities for investment from friends and family and a very low burn rate, we moved forward on our own.


With a cost break down on our greatest competitors we’ve estimated a cost of less than a penny per liter for operating our system. This is only surpassed by bio-sand filters. As we envision our system to be a best suited for nonpermanent scenarios, we will not be competing directly with bio-sand filters in their environment.

This all seems straightforward enough. Why isn’t someone already doing this? Through our contact at RayVio – we were told that the price of UVC-LEDs was steadily falling, but wouldn’t reach mass market prices for another 18-24 months. The other form of UVC-LEDs uses mercury lamps that have higher power requirements, shorter life cycles and are hazardous to dispose of. These obstacles have kept the use of self-generating energy from being used for water purification. This positions us very well to carve out an attractive portion of the water purification market with our new technologies.


This problem is also getting worse. While many organizations are working tirelessly to provide safe drinking water to the people who need it most, the world population is still growing, and our current infrastructure is under increased assault from natural disasters. In the past three decades, the amount of money spent each year on disaster relief has quadrupled. In that same time, the number of disasters happening each year that inflict over a billion dollars of damage has increased three-fold. None of the data suggest that this trend is slowing or reversing anytime soon. With this in mind, the need for a sustainable, portable, reusable source of potable water will be even more apparent in the coming years.

To contact any of the other members of the LUV-Water Team, please visit their professional websites. To view and share a short video about this project, please visit


Brian Yankello
Radhika Sawhney
Andy Novak