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US Army Funds Device That Turns ‘Ditch Water’ Into Lifesaving IV Fluid

The Lactated Ringer's Solution Generator is a lightweight, briefcase-sized portable unit that needs only six minutes to decontaminate water.

US Army medical researchers have collaborated with a Colorado-based research firm to develop a device that purifies groundwater into an intravenous (IV) fluid — a life-saving necessity for treating wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

The device, which needs only six minutes to decontaminate water, could prove particularly critical in treating wounded soldiers on the frontlines when medics run out of medical essentials such as blood and IV fluid bags.

By increasing the army’s life-saving capabilities, the device could also help in reducing pressure on the logistical supply chain.

Any Source of Water

The Lactated Ringer’s Solution Generator is a lightweight, briefcase-sized portable unit that can produce Lactated Ringer’s Solution (LR) from locally available groundwater, the US Army said in a statement.

LR is a mixture of sodium chloride, sodium lactate, potassium chloride, and calcium chloride in water that is given to treat dehydration and to restore fluid balance following bodily injury.

Austin Langdon and the portable unit that can produce sterile LR solution in austere locations from locally available freshwater sources. Photo: Jeffrey Soares/USAMMDA public affairs

“This unit can make LR solution from practically any water source, including ditch water,” said Austin Langdon, a former Army flight medic who serves as the assistant product manager on the project.

“Without question, this small device will dramatically reduce the Army’s logistical footprint of having to ship and store Lactated Ringer’s solution, which is the fluid of choice for resuscitation if blood is not available on the battlefield.”

The Device

Created by TDA Research, Inc. and funded through the Defense Health Agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program, the purification device produces one liter-size intravenous fluid bag from a concentrated LR salt solution in six minutes.

The device weighs just 11 pounds (5 kilograms) and is stored in a hard-shell case measuring 18 inches (46 centimeters) tall, 10 inches (25 cm) wide, and six inches (15 cm) deep.

It runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion cell that can produce more than 30 bags of LR solution per single charge.

“The source water flows through this device and there is [a lactated Ringer’s] concentrate that is injected and the source water ends up going through filters into an IV bag and ends up making the correct concentration of LR in IV bags,” said Girish Srinivas, the CEO of TDA Research to Military.com.

The firm received a little over $1 million for the project from the Defense Health Agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program in 2018 to design and build the device.

However, the device is still one or two years away from being deployed on the battlefield, said Srinivas, adding that the device “is not fully ruggedized; it’s a prototype.”

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