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The World’s Most Promising Water Startups

There is a lot more to water besides being able to drink it. These four companies are finding ingenious ways to take used wastewater and clean it up enough to do something useful with it.

The World’s Most Promising Water Startups
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Every year, San Francisco-based nonprofit Imagine H2O honors the world’s most promising water startups, which are judged based on promise and commercial viability. This time around, Imagine H2O focused on companies that are leveraging wastewater (i.e. sewage and water contaminated by industrial pollutants) to make money. In the process, the startups prevent the dirty liquid from ending up in our water supply and remove the need for energy-intensive decontamination treatments.

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In honor of World Water Day, we present this year’s winners, which Imagine H2O calls the “world’s most promising water startups.”

Bilexys

Based in Australia, a country that knows a little something [/url ]about water issues, [url=http://www.bilexys.com/]Bilexys turns wastewater into chemicals like hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide (otherwise known as lye). The company recently built a pilot plant at a paper and pulp company, where it generates food-grade sodium hydroxide from wastewater. Bilexys won Imagine H2O’s pre-revenue track prize for companies that haven’t generated any revenue. As a winner, the startup gets $200,000 in cash and services, as well as entrance into the Imagine H2O Accelerator Program.

New Sky Energy

Colorado-based New Sky Energy took the early revenue track prize for companies that generate less than $1 million in revenue on a yearly basis. The company’s chemical process brings together CO2 from the air (or flue gas) with salts from industrial wastewater to generate carbonates–CO2-negative solids that are used in fertilizer, building materials, and more. Companies using New Sky Energy’s technology could theoretically clean up their water and generate chemicals they use on a daily basis, all on-site.

Tusaar

A runner-up in the competition, this company (also from Colorado) has developed a simple process that can remove over 40 kinds of heavy metals from industrial water. It’s something that could be particularly useful for facilities like coal-fired power plants, which have to deal with extensive groundwater contamination. In one experiment with acid mine drainage (the flow of acidic water out of old mines) at an abandoned uranium mine, Tusaar’s technology was able to cut uranium contamination to the parts per trillion level–something that current treatment methods have been unable to do.

Nexus eWater

Another Australian company, this runner-up offers a treatment system that recycles home wastewater streams into greywater that can be used in toilets and on lawns. In the process, the system also extracts waste heat from the water and puts it in the hot water tank. Nexus eWater claims that its system can slash water heating energy costs by 75%, sewage by 70%, and domestic water use by 45%. But there is no word on when the system will be commercialized.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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