Frequently Asked Questions

Questions are broken into six topics: Schedule, Registration, Terms and Conditions, Examples of Devices That Would Not Win the Prize, Additional Questions, and How to Contact MEDRC.


If no Prize is awarded in 2023, will there be another chance to compete?

Currently, 2023 is the last year of the OHDC Prize Competition, whether or not the Prize is won.

At the device building stage are you looking for a working prototype, and will there be any budget available to entrants for building this?

The device building stage should deliver a working prototype that can meet the selection criteria. There is no funding available for the competitors to build the device.

Why are you asking for a video?

A video of the operation of the device, along with a written narrative of how the device meets each of the selection criteria, will provide MEDRC with the information necessary to determine if the device will be invited for testing in our laboratories.

Are entrants asked to ship their device to Oman?

Yes, each invited device will be shipped to MEDRC at the expense of the competitor, and testing of each invited desalination device will be carried out by MEDRC personnel in our laboratories in Muscat, Oman.

How will the judging process be organized?

Currently, we expect to have three well-known experts review the performance of each invited device against the selection criteria. If no device meets the criteria in the 2023 review the current plan is for the Prize Competition to end without a winner.


Who can compete for the Prize?

Good ideas can come from anywhere, therefore innovators (entrepreneurs, academics, scientists, engineers, basement and garage inventors) from all over the world are encouraged to compete.

What will you be looking for from registrants in order that they qualify for the competition?

The major qualification for competitors will be their acceptance of the requirements and the terms and conditions. This document will be forwarded to competitors for them to sign, initial each page and return, before they are officially accepted as entrants.

Once a competitor is registered and qualified to compete, will there be any financial assistance?

There is no financial assistance available from MEDRC. We expect the opportunity to compete for a $700,000 Prize will make it easier for competitors to find funding. MEDRC and its sponsors are only paying for performance, rather than paying for various research projects or development steps.

Terms And Conditions

Is there a formal submission as a proposal, or is there only a prize once we have a proven solution?

There is no formal technical proposal. The Prize competition is designed so that we become involved when we test working devices against the criteria.

What happens to the intellectual property developed during the competition?

It is the sponsors intent that intellectual property remains with the inventor to strongly encourage commercialization of the technology.

Current Devices Available and Why They Don’t Meet the Criteria

Doesn’t a device like this not already exist?

The solution we are looking for does not currently exist in the marketplace. The challenge is in creating a market ready, autonomous, low-cost, individual user, desalination device for short-term use in crises. Let’s take a look at some devices that do exist and see if they meet the criteria.

Traditional solar stills do not meet the Prize Competition criteria since they are not generally hand-held or produce the required 3 liters of purified water per day on a cloudy day.

The LifeStraw, is low cost, handheld, very easy to use, robust, and ultra-light. However, the LifeStraw is an ultrafilter which does not remove dissolved salts. Forward osmosis seawater desalination personal sized products are handheld, easy to use, robust, pack into a small volume, and meet the product water quality. Unfortunately, the draw solute can only be used once to produce ½ liter in either five or 10 hours. It appears too expensive and cannot operate 30 days without restocking the draw solute and without replacing the membrane.

I was wondering why your challenge had not already been solved by the Sun Still from the early 1900s?

One of the earlier versions was called the Delano Still discussed in: Consolazio, W.V., N. Pace, A.C. Ivy; Drinking Water from Sea Water; U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings; August 1944; p. 971 – 978. We believe a solar still would be too large, too low a production, and require lots of sun (dependent on weather).

How about the chemical precipitation device tested in the 1944 article mentioned previously and used by a number of countries for many years?

This is an ion exchange process using silver zeolite briquettes to remove about 80% of salt from seawater. The device was handheld, it was easy to use, robust, and packed into a small volume. Unfortunately, the silver zeolite could only be used once, appears that it was expensive, could not operate 30 days without restocking the chemical, and could not meet the water quality.

Why does a hand-held reverse osmosis desalination device not qualify for the Prize?

There is a commercial RO device available that meets many of the selection criteria for the Prize. The device meets the handheld-size, ease of use, generally robust, will operate over the short-term, easily transportable, produces 3 liters in about 3 ½ hours, is stand-alone, and can desalinate to better than 1000 mg/l salt. The market price is $1,200 per device, much higher than the $20 criterion.

There is currently a new RO device on the market that appears to meet many, but not all of the Prize Competition criteria. It will be one of the 2023 Prize Competition competitors.

Is this an impossible task?

Big changes have occurred in desalination technologies over the past fifty years, leading us to believe this is the right time to encourage innovation in the development of an inexpensive handheld device. Back then, membranes took 10 kWh/m3 to desalt seawater; today the most efficient systems, similar to those in Oman, take less than 3 kWh to produce a cubic meter of purified water…a reduction of three times, which is getting close to the theoretical minimum of 1.1 kWh/m3 for any seawater desalination process. Today the large water factories purifying seawater can produce water as low as 0.0005 USD per liter or 5 hundredths of a cent per liter. We believe through encouraging risk-taking innovation, and significant capital cost reductions, the factory we know today can be made to fit into your hand.

Additional Questions

What does the $20 production cost criterion mean?

This is the unsubsidized estimated price per unit. When discussing this selection criterion, please include your assumptions and thoughts for the judges who will account for economies of scale.

The challenge criteria state that the device must purify seawater. Many people in need of humanitarian aid live far from the ocean or other abundant water source. If the main purpose of this device is seawater purification, can we assume that the device is being used within close proximity of the sea, such that the recovery ratio is not an important criterion?


When the device is described as handheld, is the intent that it be easily portable?

Yes, it should be easily portable.

Could a device be handheld when on the move, but expandable for deployment and use (and collapsible when finished)?


If a device could produce 9 liters of safe water every three days, versus 3 liters of safe water in one day would that fit the criteria?

No. Three liters or more per day is the criterion.

Should we assume that the 9L of water storage would be part of the cost/portability constraints?

Water storage is not included in the seven criteria.

Would a batch design like this meet the water production requirements or is a continuous design desired?

A batch or continuous process is up to the innovators. The decision may be influenced when meeting all the criteria.

The criteria state that the device must be able to purify water even on cloudy days. We are trying to understand if the intent here is to avoid solar-based technologies altogether. Could we assume that there is some (higher level) of irradiance on one day, followed by two or more days of lower irradiance?

There is no intent to avoid solar-based technologies. Traditional solar stills cannot meet the criteria.

Is there a local temperature and irradiance you would like us to assume for a “cloudy day”?

No, the panel of experts did not go to that level of detail. Be sure to explain your assumptions.

Other than “cloudy days” are there any other weather conditions we should consider?

No, that is not necessary. The robustness of the design might be influenced by storage conditions (or long shelf life), e.g. freezing.

For example, should extremely cold or arid conditions be considered in the design?

See the previous answer.


How do I make contact?

Please direct all communications to

Note: We will only engage in communication with entrants or potential entrants when their query relates to administrative aspects of the Challenge. We will not offer any feedback or advice or engage in any communication pertaining to a device that has been or is intended to be submitted to compete in this challenge.

At no point should you attempt to make direct contact with a member of MEDRC staff or the panel of experts. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions for further details on this matter.