While you might mistake designer Jonathan Liow’s Solarball for a familiar hamster’s toy, it’s actually a really cool new product for  humans that purifies water using the sun. The Monash University graduate’s project is specifically geared towards aiding residents of underdeveloped areas with noclean drinking water, particularly small villages in Africa.

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A trip to Cambodia spurred Liow’s desire to design a simple product that could help others, and that’s how the Solarball was born. Each ball can yield just over three quarts of clean drinking watereach day if placed in the direct sun. Inside the ball, the dirty water evaporates away, separating the dirt and contaminants out. The resulting condensation is clean and drinkable. The small size is easy to carry, as well as affordable.

The design does pose a few problems. The size, although convenient and extremely portable, does not generate enough water for one person, let alone a village. Another factor is that the Solarball would need to be made of a durable plastic that can withstand constant exposure to the hot sun, and not become weakened easily. Although a great invention, it is not yet suitable to solve the water problem of an entire village.

A finalist in the 2011 Australian Design Award-James Dyson Award, the Solarball prototype will be on display at the Milan International Design Fair.

Via Tree Hugger