From The Editor | February 23, 2017

9 Water Technologies Ready For Liftoff


By Kevin Westerling,

It started with almost 10,000 companies, was whittled down to a shortlist of 325, and finally, at the Cleantech Forum San Francisco in January, the 2017 Global Cleantech 100 (GCT100) was unveiled. The list highlights private clean technology companies that, according to a panel of 86 experts, are most likely to make significant market impact in the next five to 10 years. The vetting included three criteria:

  1. Innovation — solving a problem in a unique, sustainable way;
  2. Market — that which is ripe and sizable; and
  3. Ability to execute — having the necessary finances and structure to capitalize.

Of the 100, the following nine are listed in Cleantech’s Water & Wastewater category.

GCT100 elevator pitch: “Developer of the AquaOmnes® desalination technology, an energy efficient alternative to the traditional saltwater desalination process.”

Desalination has long been considered the key to solving water scarcity, but the hurdle has been energy consumption. Currently, thermal- and membrane-based technologies are most often employed where desalination is needed — often at high cost. Adionics’ method, AquaOmnes, is based on liquid-liquid deionization, which pulls salt out of water rather than pulling water out of salt. Salt is bound to the proprietary liquid, a chemical called Flionex, without having to drive up temperature or pressure (and thus cost).

GCT100 elevator pitch: “Developer of a breakthrough, low-cost, chemical-free solution for treating high concentrations of complex, toxic organics and ammonia in industrial wastewater.”

For industries with difficult-to-treat organic pollutants, Axine promises a scalable, plug-and-play solution that allows companies to meet effluent requirements, and perhaps reuse water, at lower cost than biological/chemical treatment schemes (which create an expensive sludge byproduct) or competing electrochemical technologies. With conventional electrochemical treatment, wastewater flows between the cathode and the anode; Axine’s process allows wastewater to touch the anode only, thereby eliminating fouling and deterioration while reducing cost. It treats organics such phenols, aromatics, acids, dyes, and pharmaceuticals, as well as ammonia and some inorganics, in a single step.

GCT100 elevator pitch: “FATHOM is a technology agnostic, geo-spatial platform that defines the meter-to-cash vertical in the water space. FATHOM is currently deployed on 4 million meters in the US and is uniquely architected to harvest the value of AMI.”

FATHOM provides a means to get advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) implemented quickly “with little or no up-front capital” by partnering with utilities and technology companies, subsequently earning return on investment through economies of scale. FATHOM unifies typically disparate elements — technology procurement and installation, consumer usage and engagement, and utility collections — under one umbrella, leveraging its software and “pristine data” to reduce inefficiencies and optimize operations. FATHOM, which appears on the GTC100 for the third consecutive year, reports an average 60 percent reduction in bad debt and 10 percent reduction in water consumption for participating municipalities.

GCT100 elevator pitch: “Developer of an efficient closed loop showering system.”

A consumer-side product that nonetheless helps utilities in water-scarce areas, the Orbital Systems shower purifies and recycles water to reduce usage by up to 90 percent. Water is collected at the shower’s base and filtered through a Micro Capsule that removes “all unwanted particles including viruses, bacteria, 99.9% of toxins, metals, and oils.” The shower also reduces energy use by approximately 80 percent by utilizing its own, built-in heater that needs minimal energy to reheat water to the set temperature.

GCT100 elevator pitch: “Provider of Fixed-Bed Biofilm Activated Sludge (FBAS) wastewater treatment plants in urban and residential population centers.”

Organica creates localized, biological wastewater treatment solutions that offer an economical alternative to building pipeline infrastructure for centralized treatment, also allowing for water reuse and potentially striking design. The greenhouse-type structures use natural biology to provide for odor-free treatment. It is technically a fixed-bed biofilm activated sludge (FBAS) system featuring aerated biomodules (engineered and natural root systems) to maintain the biology and disc filters to remove total suspended solids (TSS). Organica designs the reactors, working with local engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) firms to build them, and also provides control and instrumentation equipment to ensure smooth operation.

GCT100 elevator pitch: “First to market with the Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (MABR). Four times more energy efficient than conventional wastewater treatment.”

OxyMem offers biological treatment with a twist. Biofilms on the membranes are oxygenated without the use of bubble aeration, which saves on energy costs. Nonporous, hollow-fiber gas separation membranes allow bacteria to “breathe” on the surface and create a biofilm. In contrast to porous membrane systems where biofilm causes fouling and requires a cleaning regimen, biofilms in OxyMem’s system are essential to the success of its membrane aerated biofilm reactor (MABR). The submerged systems can be dropped into existing aeration basins at municipal wastewater facilities or delivered as a packaged plant for onsite municipal/industrial reduction of nutrients and organics. According to the company, its MABR is 10-times more energy-efficient than moving bed bioreactor (MBBR) technology and produces 50 percent less sludge compared to conventional activated sludge systems.

GCT100 elevator pitch: “Enabling solid-state ultraviolet disinfection of water, air and surfaces.”

RayVio’s UV LED (light emitting diode) technology is intended for smaller applications in industrial settings, particularly healthcare and semiconductors, and at the home. Available in high-power (XP Series) and medium-power (XE Series), the UV LEDs can be employed for point-of-use (POU) drinking water treatment and are touted for their ability to disinfect without the use of chemicals and without changing odor or taste.

GCT100 elevator pitch: “Advanced water treatment solutions provider that designs, manufactures, and assembles systems for demanding desalination, brine management and chemical recovery applications.”

Saltworks specializes in industrial wastewater desalination and reverse osmosis (RO) brine management with its ElectroChem electrodialysis reversal (EDR) system; additionally, the SaltMaker Evaporator Crystallizer renders freshwater and solid-form contaminants for zero liquid discharge (ZLD). Yet another innovation, the Ammonia Splitter, promises to “remove and destroy ammonia to meet any wastewater discharge requirement” utilizing its IonFlux ion exchange membranes. Saltworks is also nimble when it comes to delivery, offering single products, packaged solutions, or plant builds with on-site operational support.

GCT100 elevator pitch: “Provider of an integrated event management platform for optimizing operational efficiency, based on big data analytics and sophisticated algorithms. TaKaDu offers in-depth visibility into every event, such as water leakage and supply interruptions.”

TaKaDu provides a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that brings the benefits of Big Data, namely operational efficiency and cost savings, to drinking water utilities. Key for municipalities struggling with water scarcity and/or failing infrastructure, the solution “enables water utilities to analyze and manage the full life-cycle of network events, such as leaks, bursts, water pressure issues, water quality and faulty assets.” Besides water savings, the platform is said to facilitate maintenance cost savings, increased network availability, knowledge sharing, and improved customer satisfaction. It does so by turning raw data from multiple sources into meaningful insight for smarter utility management decisions.

Additional companies categorized in other sectors (e.g., Agriculture & Food, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid) may also hold appeal to water/wastewater utility managers and engineers. See the full list here.