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LifeStraw water filter designed for developing world

This high-tech, low-cost, portable water filter could help change the lives of millions of people with limited access to clean water.

In way of tech conference swag, the LifeStraw is definitely unique.

Matthew Nordan, the president of nanotechnology firm Lux Research, delivered the morning keynote for his company's annual conference earlier this week where he talked about the disruptive potential of materials sciences.

Nanotech in a straw-shaped water filter Martin LaMonica/CNET Networks

Although he's working with very technical topic, Nordan puts on a good show. There was the nanonickel-covered ping pong ball that he tried unsuccessfully to crush with a hammer.

Then he brought out a bowl of muddy water that he got from a local woodland. This was nasty-looking water with lots of brown things floating in it.

And he drank it.

A portable water filter in a straw.

Nordan survived the episode by using a LifeStraw, a thick plastic straw the acts as a portable water filter. It was created by Danish company Vestergaard Frandsen for developing countries, where access to clean water is a serious problem and expected to get worse. The filter costs $3.50 and lasts a year.

CNET included the LifeStraw in a recent photo gallery on low-cost tech for the developing world, but seeing someone actually use it is a whole different experience.

At the end, Nordan told everyone to look under there seats, where taped to the bottom of each was our very own LifeStraw. I don't actually go camping for days at a time, so I can't say I actually need it. Maybe I'll use it to show kids in the neighborhood what tech can do.

In any case, the product is available only for institutional sales. But at some point, it will be sold at retail.