Think of it as the Tesla or the iPhone of water bottles.
The QUARTZ bottle is a self-cleaning water bottle – the world’s first – that uses UV-C LED light to purify water. To be more scientific about it, the bottle has a 280 nanometer UV-C LED light that triggers a photochemical reaction. This, in turn, neutralises up to 99.9 percent of bacteria, both in your drinking water and in your bottle, in just 60 seconds.
This not only solves the task of having to wash the container regularly, but it also addresses two major problems: The first being filthy water, whether it’s from the tap or a fresh water source, and the second being our addiction to plastic.
With the QUARTZ water bottle, its makers hope to provide us healthier drinking water, while at the same time, wean us off our unsustainable habit of buying one-time use products.
If you don’t feel guilty about buying plastic bottles, here’s a video of a mother whale carrying her dead baby for days after it was poisoned by plastic materials.
Anyway! The QUARTZ bottle also features automatic self-cleaning every four hours, a double-insulated construction that keeps water cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours, and a battery that lasts up to two months per charge.
The bottle is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter, and it’s raised well past its funding goal with a haul of nearly a million US dollars, as of writing.
We talked to the guys at QUARTZ co-founder Justin Wang to know more about how he and his team came up with such a great (and timely) product.
Where did you get the idea for the QUARTZ bottle?
“I tried to make a commitment to decrease my use of plastic bottles a few years ago. However, I found myself still reaching for a plastic one-use bottle when I didn’t have purified water on the go or when my reusable bottle became contaminated or too smelly for comfort.
“I would tell myself things like: ‘I stopped using my reusable bottle because it developed a moldy and funky smell’. ‘I still buy plastic bottled water when I don’t have access to purified water’. Those were the excuses I was making to myself every time I reached for a plastic bottled water.
“Despite best intentions, I realized that, like many people, I was still using disposable plastic bottles because they were just too easy when compared with my reusable bottles. Whether it’s a S’well or Contigo – they were too smelly, too hard to clean, and they didn’t provide access to purified water on the go.
“I spoke with my friends and found out their experiences were similar. People wanted to drink more water and use less plastic, but existing products just did not make that easy. There had to be a better way.
Tell us more about the design process.
“We knew that if we incorporated innovative technology into a beautifully designed bottle, it would make it easier for people to access clean water and make more sustainable choices every day.
“We worked with a great product design team to relentlessly refine hundreds of variations of the bottle. We wanted to make sure the material, finish, and proportions fit perfectly into the needs of the customer.
“I carried around a 3D-printed prototype for weeks, pretending to drink out of it and tweaked the design little by little to get it perfect. I certainly got some crazy looks.
“We decided to make our first functional prototypes after numerous iterations of 3D models and prototypes. After vetting many suppliers, we produced a first set of beautiful bottles.
“We surveyed hundreds of people, even strangers at Whole Foods and Nordstroms: ‘The cap might be too hard to twist’.’The mouth is too wide to drink out of’. ‘The threads on the outside might not very good or might collect dust’.
“Going back to the drawing board at this stage meant investing in another round of prototyping and design work.
“We decided it was something we had to do to feel good about the product we were launching. We tweaked the cap design, the width of the mouth and also moved the threads to the inside of the bottle.
“What came out of the next round of design and prototyping iteration was something the whole QUARTZ team was very proud of.
“The QUARTZ Bottle was designed to be simple, elegant, and accentuating a minimalistic ergonomic form factor that fits comfortably into your hands. The two-toned color scheme stands out by being understated, and has a beautiful textured and soft eggshell finish.”
How long did development take?
“In total, this project has been 5+ years in the making.”
What were the biggest challenges you encountered in making the QUARTZ bottle?
“With my co-founders, the early days were about making the UV-C LED technology viable.
“There have been different challenges along the way from making a viable LED chip to creating the perfect lighting behavior. One of the biggest, I think, would be getting the core technology cost down to make it a viable product.
“A little over a year ago, the amount of power we are putting in our UVC LED chips would’ve cost $150 per unit from a supplier. That would’ve made the QUARTZ Bottle dead on arrival and cost $200 or more to build even before considering cost of batteries, sensors, materials, and shipping.
“That would’ve made this product economically challenging, if not impossible.
“Luckily, the work our engineering team did quickly drove down the unit cost of the LEDs. We were leading the way in improving the cost per milliwatt and, pretty soon, we were slashing the prices of LEDs by half, and then half again.
“This price reduction from the work at our California manufacturing plant (we invested in a California-based facility to make sure we have quality LEDs), allowed us to manufacture super reliable UV LEDs at a fraction of the price.
“This finally made the QUARTZ Bottle a reality about 9-12 months ago. What would’ve cost us $500 to bring to market a year ago, we are bringing to market today at $99 retail today.
“Our goal is to continue to drive down the cost of this technology over time so everyone can have access to clean water.”
Also, we LOVE its minimalist design. How many prototypes did you go through before choosing this one?
“We do too! Thanks. We went through three rounds of prototyping but we probably started out with 30+ variations in design direction.”
Now that you’ve well gone past your Kickstarter goal. What’s next?
“Living healthier and more sustainable lives all the while looking great while doing it. We are currently focused on building and manufacturing a great product but we have tons more planned in the pipeline.”
How do you hope the QUARTZ bottle will change the way people address the plastic water bottle problem?
“QUARTZ was started with a vision where innovative technology can be combined with inspirational design to help people access pristine drinking water easily and sustainably.
“But to put it simply – our mission really boils down to helping people to: Do good. Feel good. Look good.
“I think only when a solution addresses these three values for our customer, will we be able to have a real long term impact on our health and environment. Besides eliminating plastic bottles from our landfill and waterways – every QUARTZ Bottle supports our partner-charity: water.”