Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.
A large apparel brand outsources the manufacturing of clothes and footwear it sells to third parties, which have to comply with strict environmental conditions set by the brand. Currently, some hazardous chemicals might be filtered but they remain in a sludge which is often neither recycled nor entirely destroyed. Our solution requires the membrane to be installed in the dyeing plant to filter the water for traces of heavy metal contaminants. Thanks to the properties of the membrane, the heavy metal could then be recovered and sold back to chemical companies. Importantly, the process of producing the membranes is sustainable and does not require or produce any hazardous chemicals.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.
We have developed a working prototype for the following metals: platinum, lead, nickel, copper, chromium-6, cadmium. This prototype outperforms competitive membranes for capturing nickel, while other heavy metal ions still require testing. We have not yet had a chance to perform an industrial pilot and hence cannot assess precisely the impact this can have. From a theoretical perspective, carcinogenic heavy metals ions (chromium-6) are currently challenging to remove for dye houses and leather tanneries, which our technology could take care of. For other heavy metals, we can remove traces at a smaller level than the existing technology. Stopping the contamination of water sources will not only prevent ecosystem degradation but also prevent human diseases as these heavy metals have been shown to be carcinogenic and create irreversible damage to the kidney.
Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?
We first need to perform a pilot in a plant, which should ideally be UK-based as proximity allows for frequent optimisation. We would then install this technology for dye houses around the world, in partnership with either brands or dye-houses directly. We will try to partner with the ZDHC group (Zero Discharge Hazardous Chemical industry group) to support its members with our technology and solutions. Within 5 to 10 years, the idea will expand to other sectors where water treatment is also an issue (mining, water utility, etc.) in order to maximize the impact from our platform technology.