DuPont buys out UCD spinout OxyMem

Article by Adam Duckett

DUPONT has bought out OxyMem, a wastewater technology company that was spun out of University College Dublin’s (UCD’s) school of chemical and bioprocess engineering.

The company was founded in 2013 and now has more than 60 employees working at a production site in Athlone, Ireland. Its membrane aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) technology is used in more than 30 water treatment works across the world. The technology boasts higher efficiencies than conventional activated sludge plants and can be retrofitted into existing operations.

DuPont, which has been an investor in OxyMem for four years, owned 31% of the company but announced in December that it had exercised an option to acquire the entire company.

Company co-founder Eoin Casey, who is head of the school of chemical and bioprocess engineering at UCD, said: "Water utilities spend a substantial amount of energy on the treatment of wastewater. The OxyMem MABR provides energy savings of up to 75% and is now seen as a solution that helps move wastewater treatment closer to carbon neutrality. It is gratifying to see that a technology that started out in a university laboratory less than ten years ago now being deployed at full-scale in more than 14 countries."

OxyMem is one of a small number of companies, including SUEZ and Fluence, pushing the application of MABR technologies. The purchase of OxyMem adds to DuPont’s existing stable of water purification and separation technologies that include ultrafiltration and ion exchange resins.

HP Nanda, Global Vice-President and General Manager, DuPont Water Solutions, said: “MABR is a new technology that offers unique and differentiated performance for secondary wastewater treatment over existing technologies. Wastewater is a fast-growing global market driven by industrial expansion, challenging water conditions and tightening regulations.”

While conventional activated sludge treatment processes bubble oxygen through bacteria suspended in solution to decompose organic waste, OxyMem’s technology feeds oxygen through hollow tube membranes to biofilms of bacteria that coat the outside of the membranes. OxyMem has developed a poreless gas permeable membrane made of silicone. The company says the air in the membrane fibres does not need to overcome hydro-static head as compared to conventional aeration systems, which allows it to operate at much lower pressures and provide significant energy savings.

The value of DuPont’s buyout has not been disclosed.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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