LifePump is a deep-well, progressive cavity hand pump designed to provide continuous water for rural communities.
LifePump is a progressive cavity hand pump. It is designed by humanitarian engineering nonprofit Design Outreach in partnership with World Vision, private donors and SEEPEX, a German-based pump manufacturer from Ohio which manufactures and provides the PC pumping element—the rotor and the stator—for the LifePump.
It is engineered for rural communities in need of water access, to reach depths of 100 meters, be long lasting and continuously supply a flow of water to the surface with the turn of its handle making it possible for anyone, regardless of strength or size, to access water – even children.
Africa, specifically Zambia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi and Mali and other developing countries in need of deep well water access such as Haiti.
Design Outreach partners with other organizations such as World Vision and Water for Good to implement LifePumps.
Other major partners that have helped make the LifePump a reality: The Water Project | SEEPEX | Exact Machine Corp. | Strataflo | SonSet Solutions | Messiah College | Biomet | The Ohio State University | DePuy Synthes (a Johnson & Johnson company) | Battelle Memorial Institute | Force Design | Grace Brethren Churches.
Design Outreach also works with Rotary clubs, such as Rotary Clubs of Delaware, New Albany, Tri-Village, Pataskala, and Sunbury-Galena in a project to make clean water more accessible in Haiti.
Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation
Rural communities that without access to a reliable water source, where the water is too deep for traditional hand pumps.
LifePump’s PC pumping elements are supplied by EEPEX, a German-based pump manufacturer based in Ohio, USA.
As of 2017, Design Outreach has installed about 35 pumps in countries including Malawi, Zambia, Kenya and Ethiopia and plans to reach 2.5 million people by 2030.
Description of the pump type
Power required, measured in watts
Manufacturer-specified discharge rate, measured at a specific head
Maximum depth of water the pump can pull
Piston nominal diameter, measured in centimeters
The LifePump consists of a stainless steel single helix metallic rotor that turns inside a double-helix elastomeric stator, located underneath at the bottom of the borehole. Both of these combined is called a progressive cavity pump (PCP).
When LifePump users turn the handles (in a clockwise rotary motion) mounted on a right-angle bevel gearbox, this rotates drive rods that are connected to the helix-shaped rotor. When the rotor turns relative to the stator, it creates progressing pockets of water that are pushed to the surface. This mechanism allows PCPs to pump from extreme depths, where piston or diaphragm-style pumps are unable to operate.
LifePump depth in comparison to other hand powered pumps
LifePump is designed to wear slowly over time by minimizing wear on parts to ensure that the pump lasts for years before needing maintenance; this prevents catastrophic failure that would leave users suddenly without water. This is accomplished in part by using heavy-duty components fabricated from stainless steel or, in some cases, high-strength steel that is coated or plated for optimal corrosion resistance.
LifePump’s handle length, required handle torque, and height of the pump above ground are features engineered to be ergonomically ideal for women and children.
The LifePump’s outer components, include concrete mounts, spout assembly, base, gearbox and handles that are connected to the progressive cavity pump and foot valve at the bottom of the well by riser pipe and drive rods
LifePump geometric design showing the rotor and stator.
Local Design Outreach partners drill the wells, install the pumps, and provide proper maintenance and training to ensure LifePump lasts as long as possible before needing service. All of this is done in partnership with the local communities where LifePumps are installed.
LifePump requires only preventive maintenance.
LifePump is designed to last years in operation before needing maintenance. Its parts are designed to wear off slowly over time to give locally trained operators and partner organizations to perform maintenance.
LifePump can survive for at least 5 years. Its pilot program started in 2013 and improvements were incorporated in 2015, therefore its lifetime is currently being monitored in the field.
The LifePump is designed to reach deeper ground, last longer than standard hand pumps available today, and provide a steady flow of water year-round. Designer specified performance targets include: durable, sustainable and appropriate technology for the communities it serves.
Design Outreach piloted its LifePump in five African countries, beginning in November 2013. Researchers at Messiah College independently evaluated the LifePump pilot in order to study its field and laboratory performance, to verify the effectiveness of the LifePump from technological and cultural standpoints.
The study found that community members preferred the LifePump to standard hand pumps, because of its high durability, reduced maintenance, and ease of use. Independent analysis of LifePump components, showed no measureable signs of wear on critical components after 30 months of daily usage. The pilot program showed promising community acceptance, durability and cost effectiveness—helping to lead to improved sustainability. To read more on the pilot program project see here.
Design Outreach and Messiah College during the LifePump Hundred Pump multicultural pilot program in five African countries beginning november 2013.
The LifePump can be outfitted with remote monitors that mounts on the side of the pump the same way the spout would. This device tells how much water is pumped and provides timely and valuable feedback which can help water organizations become more effective in fulfilling their mission of delivering clean water to those in need.
Bixler, G., Stathulis, St., Haubert, T., Lakovic D., and Sivandran G., 2015, The LifePump Innovation for Developing Countries, Journal AWWA American Water Works Asociation 107: 5, pp. 48-54.
Fomich, A., Sours, P., and Bixler, G. D., 2018, An Innovative Approach to Teaching Appropriate Technology for Developing Countries, International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering, Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship, 13: 2, pp. 10-24, Fall, ISSN 1555-9033.
McGeorge, Kristin, 2014, The LifePump: A Strategy for Introducing Affordable Clean Water to the Developing World. Master dissertation, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York.
The LifePump was evaluated for efficiency (number of handle rotations with the amount of water collected), the ability to maintain the prime (measured by counting then number of handle rotations until water exits the spout) and usability, ergonomics and sustainability (measured through interviews and observations of end users to verigy acceptance) by Messiah College researchers.
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