From The Editor | April 12, 2016

Empowering Water Entrepreneurship: Flexible Filtration Gel Shaped For A World Of Contaminants

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online

Gel

“Pow! emPowering Opportunities in Water” was a national search for burgeoning, sustainable water technologies that could benefit from a boost of entrepreneurial stimuli including $40,000 in cash, $10,000 worth of access to a high-level business accelerator, a year’s worth of free office space in downtown Milwaukee, and collaboration with top-tier universities and business mentors.

That search concluded with the selection of three winners: Nano Gas Technologies, Inc., Nutrient Recovery and Upcycling LLC (NRU), and WAVVE Stream Inc. You can read more about what went into the competition and NRU here. You can learn more about Nano Gas Technologies, Inc. and its produced water recovery technology here. In part three, we take a look at WAVVE Stream Inc.

When Eric Beydoun, the co-founder and CEO of WAVVE Stream Inc., left his final interview with Veolia and The Water Council, he felt like his company had lost its chance of winning the Pow! competition. He had been grilled about the potential pitfalls WAVVE Stream would face if it were to approach the water treatment industry with its disruptive technology. Apparently, his instincts were off.

“When I received the email that we won, I called my co-founder and was excited to announce to her that we made it,” he said. “She was confused since I told her that I felt that the final interview did not go so well. The afterthought that brought me the biggest joy was the fact that we were selected even though they knew we had obstacles to surpass, proving that they had the necessary expertise and resources to help us.”

WAVVE Stream offers a filtration technology based on tiny bio-beads so small that the final product resembles a hydrogel that can be integrated into different filtration systems. The beads are extremely porous and use a combination of chemical and physical filtration to remove the selected contaminants from water, mainly through adsorption. The technology is modifiable and can be designed to focus on removing specific contaminants.

With a focus on “safe filtering,” the company is developing its technology with recyclable, food-grade bio-wastes. While Beydoun sees the company’s main competition in resin bead filtration, those products are made with more costly and less disposable materials.

“We have found in our laboratory that on a per-gram basis of our dry media, we are four times more efficient at removing nitrates than current resin beads in the market,” he said.

The inventor of the bio-bead filtration method, Dr. Debora Rodrigues, hails from Brazil, where she experienced a critical need for clean water firsthand. The business side of WAVVE is composed of former students from the University of Houston who worked with Dr. Rodrigues for a class project. Upon their graduation, they incorporated the company.

“WAVVE believes its products can be used for residential to large-scale water treatment facilities, initially focusing on the removal of nitrates, phosphates, hexavalent chromium, lead, copper, and total organic carbon,” Brennon Garthwait, the open innovation manager at Veolia, said. “WAVVE’s initial go-to-market strategy is to act as an add-on product to existing water filtration systems in the municipal drinking and wastewater treatment industries, as well as the residential point of use and point of entry industries.”

WAVVE is an acronym that speaks to the international mindset behind the company. The initials stand for the first letter in the words for water in the five original co-founders’ native languages: English, Spanish, Swedish, Russian, and French. That internationalism has seeped into Beydoun’s pliable outlook for the business as well.

“Heavy metals and nutrients are common contaminants found in global water supplies,” he said. “In the water filtration industry, there is no one-solution-fits-all since the contaminants and needs are very different depending on the region of the world.”

Image credit: "Gel," Cinara Assênsio © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/