UK-BASED G2O Water Technologies is to scale up production and field-test its patented graphene oxide water filters in a new £1m (US$1.3m) project.
The funding for the project has largely come from UK government research funding arm Innovate UK, with the remainder provided by G2O's project partners, including speciality chemical manufacturer William Blythe.
G2O Water Technologies’ filters can be printed using a low-cost method, or made by applying a graphene oxide coating to polymer membranes. The graphene oxide coating makes the membrane more permeable, allowing more water to pass through and meaning up to 50% less energy is needed to drive the process. The company believes that it could one day result in being able to do away with the need for pumps for membrane purification systems and rely instead on gravity.
“As we are taking a porous polymer material as the substrate, and the filtration by size exclusion is happening in the surface layers of graphene oxide, it is expected to be significantly cheaper than some current membranes due to its simplicity. However, when this is packaged into a domestic system, eliminating the need for pumps, ozone, UV etc, it means that the purification system can be significantly cheaper too, potentially extending access to clean water to more people,” said Tim Harper, G2O CEO and founder.
The company hopes to develop and market cheap domestic water purification units for use inside the home, in areas of the world where the water supply is not reliably clean, with contaminants including pesticides, heavy metals and plastic microfibres. Products could range from a simple jug to more sophisticated appliances. Harper says the company’s system “makes obtaining clean water as simple as making a cup of filter coffee.”
The new £1m funding will allow G2O Water Technologies to develop large-scale manufacturing processes for the filters using industrial printing technology. It will work with the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and its industry partners. G2O will then embark upon field testing with a major global consumer products company with a significant market share in Asia and Africa, although the company did not reveal which. The project will last for 26 months, and G2O believes that a final commercial product using its filters could ready in three years.
The funding follows a previous £700,000 Innovate UK grant in 2015. Over the past two years, G2O has worked with the CPI to help transfer and scale up the technology from laboratory to industry.
“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,” said Harper.