Every year, more than 2 million children around the world die of dehydration that's caused by diarrhea. One fix is to make drinking water better for everyone, preventing the diarrhea in the first place. Another way to tackle the problem is by ensuring that dehydration itself doesn't kill people. Fosmo Med, the winner of this year's Philips Innovation Fellows Competition, took on the latter approach with an IV saline bag that can turn dirty water into a sterile solution without using any electricity.
The seeds of Fosmo Med's invention were planted when co-creator Ben Park heard about NASA's forward osmosis technology, which can convert dirty water into clean water for astronauts that lack access to water supplies.
Fosmo's saline bag, dubbed Maji, is shipped without water, making it easier and cheaper for the product to get to its final destination (a one liter Maji bag weighs about 2 ounces, while a regular saline IV bag weighs about 2.3 pounds). The cost of shipping 14 Maji bags from California to Africa is $209. The cost of shipping regular IV bags is $710. "Big companies make these things by the billions, and they don't want to change anything because they know it's the status quo," says Park.
The Maji bag can be used with any kind of water, except urine and sea water. Fosmo explains forward osmosis, a basic process many people learn in high school chemistry, on its website:
If you put a membrane between water and any type of salt, the salt will create a draw that will move water through the membrane. This process requires no power, as opposed to Reverse Osmosis (RO), which uses power to cleanse water containing salts and other solids. The FO process leaves water with salt in its content. The salt in this case could be sodium chloride, sugar, potassium chloride, magnesium or others. This lends itself beautifully to IV solutions, since most of these solutions require salt of some type to be injected into veins.
Maji still has to get FDA approval, and Park believes it will cost upwards of half a million dollars to get through testing. The $60,000 in prize money from Philips will go towards that goal. Fosmo has also begun to raise money from investors.
But while Park recognizes that there is a market for Maji in places like the U.S. and Europe, he's mostly focused on disaster relief and the developing world.