"The pen cell makes it possible for people to easily and quickly have safe supplies of personal drinking water in remote and isolated areas and during situations where water supplies are at risk of being contaminated," Sobsey said. "There is a very big need for this, and it almost certainly will save lives."
Users put a small amount of water into the pen, and then salt pellets dissolve in the water, which comes in contact with battery-powered electrodes, he explained. Within 30 or so seconds of flicking a switch, a chemical reaction known as electrolysis generates chlorine and other oxidants from the saltwater.
"The solution contents are then added to a quart bottle of water or a canteen," Sobsey said. "This delivers enough oxidants to disinfect the water in 10 minutes even better than plain chlorine does, and then the water can be drunk safely."
To protect soldiers, the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) paid for developing the MIOX Disinfection Pen, which is seven inches long and weighs four ounces. A lighter, less expensive version is being designed for the outdoor recreation market.