A UK company is heading a £1m project to pioneer new, graphene-based technology to help address the world’s clean drinking water crisis.
Manchester-based G2O Water Technologies is leading the project to accelerate development of its patented system that has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of water filtration.
The ultimate aim of the project is to develop domestic water purification systems that will deliver cheaper and more widely-available drinking water to millions of people around the world.
The company has also secured an agreement with a major global consumer products company to test and evaluate the new technology in existing domestic water purification operations in the developing world.
The project is funded by UK innovation agency, Innovate UK, which describes the project as “important” and “exceptional”.
Tim Harper, CEO and founder of G2O Water Technologies, said: “Many urban water supplies contain pollutants including pesticides, heavy metals and even plastic micro-fibres as identified in the recent report by Orb and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. While this problem requires complex domestic water treatment systems, our technology makes obtaining clean water as simple as making a cup of filter coffee.”
G2O’s technology works by creating low-cost printed graphene filters or by applying a graphene coating to existing membranes used in water filtration processes. This technique reduces the amount of energy needed to filter the water passing through the membrane by up to 50%, increasing throughput of purified water while combating contamination and lowering the overall cost involved.
This new technology allows more water to pass through a membrane, therefore removing the need for and expense of power generation to run pumps and controls in existing, complex domestic water purification systems of water production.
Tim Harper added: “G2O’s graphene filter technology has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of treating water thereby increasing the availability of safe drinking water.
“This project provides us with the ability to validate and accelerate an innovative, emerging technology that can help us develop the next generation of cost-effective systems for clean, potable water. This is key to meeting diverse, consumer demand across the globe.
“Since it was discovered and celebrated as a world-changing, wonder material we believe this can be the first use of graphene that is capable of truly living up to graphene’s potential to make a real difference to people’s lives; not only tackling a global problem but creating an entirely new worldwide market.”
Innovate UK’s independent assessors’ report summarised the impact of G2O’s technology as something that would “help millions of people dependent on clean water…an essential new technology capable of providing contaminant-free water in a cost-effective way for people in the developing world”.
The report also highlighted the “strong market opportunity” in G2O’s technology, its experienced team, consortium and well-planned strategies to market the technology. The report noted: “it would be difficult to find a better team for this important project.”
The latest Innovate UK funding for G2O follows a previous £700,000 project grant awarded in 2015, which enabled the company to fund a two-year project with the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), a UK-based technology innovation centre which is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. The project focused on transferring and scaling up the technology from laboratory to industry, ensuring the technology is usable with full quality control.
The technology has since been validated at CPI and the new grant will focus on transferring it to large-scale manufacturing. That will include the use of industrial printing technology to manufacture membranes and validate their performance using prototypes and will involve collaboration with a number of UK partner organisations including speciality chemicals manufacturer, William Blythe and CPI.
Independent market research suggests that the global market for membranes used in water filtration and purification is estimated to be worth more than US$25bn.