Oregon BEST has awarded a commercialization grant to an industry-university team developing a floating, solar-activated stormwater treatment device that could be deployed in retaining ponds or ditches along roadways and parking lots to keep contaminants from reaching streams.
The technology could also be used to pre-treat stormwater, helping reduce overflow situations at municipal treatment facilities during severe weather events.
Beaverton, Ore. startup Puralytics is building on the success of its SolarBag portable drinking water purification system, which uses a nanotechnology-coated mesh activated by sunlight to purify 3-liter quantities of water in approximately three hours. The SolarBag is currently used in developing countries and sold for emergency preparedness and backcountry hiking. The company is incorporating the same technology into thin, round pads that would float a few inches below the surface of standing stormwater and treat much larger volumes.
The Oregon BEST funding will enable Puryalytics to work with faculty and students affiliated with Oregon State University’s Institute for Water and Watersheds(IWW) to evaluate the overall concept of the new system, establish key design parameters and generate third-party test data. The OSU research team, led by Todd Jarvis, Oregon BEST researcher and the interim director of the IWW, will construct artificial ponds or tanks that can be closely controlled and monitored, where prototypes of the water treatment devices will be tested.
“Todd and his team at OSU are great partners, and they have the analytical horsepower to provide the third-party testing and data our company needs,” said Mark Owen, CEO of Puralytics. “One of the challenges for a small company is that you don’t have the analytical equipment or the funding to pay for third-party validation, so Oregon BEST is really filling that gap. Without this grant and Oregon BEST’s connections, this development work would have been significantly delayed.”
As environmental regulations tighten, city and state budgets shrink, and severe weather events increase, stormwater runoff from buildings, parking lots and elsewhere is a growing issue for industry.
“Although there’s a lot of work going into bioswales and semi-permeable surfaces and self-cleaning coatings for buildings, these are large-scale, expensive engineering projects,” said Owen, whose company employs 10 people. “Because our solution is simple and small and has particular promise for cleaning up trace chemical contaminants, we’re starting to see increased customer interest.”
The Oregon Dept. of Transportation has expressed interest for two reasons, Owen said. First, the technology has the potential to keep highway surface contaminants such as petrochemicals, copper from automobile brakes, other metals, biological waste from animals, etc. from entering nearby streams. And if water in retention ponds along highways could be purified to a high enough level, it could potentially help meet federal clean water availability requirements during emergency situations.
Municipalities are also interested in the technology because it could lead to decentralized treatment of stormwater, potentially diverting millions of gallons from entering water treatment facilities. This could save cities money and reduce the incidence of combined sewer overflows when treatment facilities are overwhelmed during high water events.
Working with Jarvis at OSU are Christine Kelly, an Oregon BEST researcher and associate professor of chemical engineering, who will work primarily with metal contaminants, and Jennifer Field, an OSU professor of environmental and molecular toxicology who will work on the organic chemicals side.
“The timing of this grant offers us the opportunity to also integrate students, so it’s really a win-win-win for everybody — faculty, students and the industry partner,” said Jarvis who came to OSU after a career in industry. “I’m very impressed with how Oregon BEST works to help make applied research beneficial to cleantech businesses.”
The $53,000 grant is part of $1 million in Commercialization Grants that Oregon BEST has awarded during the past 18 months to speed commercialization of the state’s most promising clean technologies being developed by university researchers and private businesses.
Puralytics has also received gap funding from the Oregon Nanoscience & Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) for earlier nanotechnology development work that contributed to the company’s LED-based Shield system now being deployed in decentralized drinking water applications.
“This project is a great example of Oregon’s leadership in applying cleantech innovation to water technologies,” said David Kenney, President and Executive Director of Oregon BEST. “As clean water becomes more of an issue, companies like Puralytics will play a greater role, so we’re pleased our Commercialization Program is helping this company develop a new product that has such potential.”
About Puralytics, Inc. http://puralytics.com
Puralytics, a water purification equipment company headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon, has developed a patent pending photochemical water purification process using only light energy either from LEDs or sunlight to activate an advanced nanotechnology coated mesh. Water is purified through five simultaneous photochemical reactions, breaking down chemical compounds (such as petrochemicals, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals), reducing and removing heavy metals (like arsenic, lead, and mercury), and sterilizing bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. There are no chemical additives and 100 percent of the water is purified. Puralytics Shield and SolarBag products set new standards for sustainability, ease of use and cost effectiveness.
About Oregon BEST http://oregonbest.org
The Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST) is the nexus for clean technology innovation, building capability, convening collaborations, and accelerating solutions to environmental challenges that deliver prosperity in all corners of Oregon. Oregon BEST brings together Oregon’s significant R&D strengths in clean technology to support the commercialization of new products and services. Since establishment in 2007, Oregon BEST’s 210-plus Member Faculty have generated more than $83 million in research revenue from federal, industry and foundation sources to Oregon. At its four partner universities (Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University, and University of Oregon), Oregon BEST has established a network of seven shared-user research facilities. Oregon BEST Commercialization Grants are awarded to collaborations between entrepreneurs and Oregon BEST member faculty at partner universities. The first four Commercialization Grant awardees from 2011 have secured more than $1.5 million in follow-on funding, more than six times the total grant amount awarded.