Nanotech for clean water

Liveblogging the Foresight Conference. Now in progress is the clean water panel, moderated by Anthony Waitz of Quantum Insight. First up is Fred Tepper of Argonide, which makes nanoalumina filters which look like paper and are made in a paper mill, based on Russian technology. When the nanoalumina reaches 15% weight of the filter, over 99.99% of viruses are removed, through electrostatic forces. It also takes out DNA and RNA. He believes that his filter will be useful in many applications, from military uses to the Third World. Quite an enthusiastic fellow! They also have an arsenic filter, which if you’re familiar with water issues you know is a huge need both in the U.S. and other countries. Evidently he is getting a lot of work out of his Russian researchers. (In answer to a question, he explained that the nanoalumina fibers don’t come off into the water much (down in ppb levels) and that stomach acid would dissolve them anyway, and in any case these materials are used as antiacids and are deliberately ingested for that purpose.)

Next panelist is Kevin McGovern, Chairman and CEO of McGovern Capital, here to represent KX Industries. He points out that water is a $400 billion global business, and reminds us of the huge number of people without reliable access to clean water. He sees increasing water scarcity as the biggest issue on the planet, even likely to cause wars. About 2.3 billion people have diseases linked to water; 6000 childen die per day from this problem. There are many requirements to a solution, including getting rid of viruses, which get down to 25 nm in size in the case of polio. His talk was basically an overview rather than describing KX technology specifically, which is not being disclosed currently.

The last panelist is William Lee representing eMembrane, who has also worked in venture capital. They use customized nano-brushes sticking off a surface to change the size of pores in a membrane. Their current target is industrial and military water needs. The goal is ppt (part per trillion) purity. Another target area is water to use with artificial organs.

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