Membrane start-up backed to take on “un-filterable” waters
Industrial Water Membranes Americas

Membrane start-up backed to take on un-filterable waters

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

US membrane start-up ZwitterCo has secured $5.9m financing to scale up a nanofiltration membrane it claims can filter historically un-filterable process water.

Difficult to treat wastewaters

A US start-up has secured seed financing to scale its hydrophilic nanofiltration (NF) membranes that it claims can filter historically un-filterable process water and wastewater.

Closing Series Seed financing to the tune of $5.9 million, ZwitterCo will use the money to scale its water treatment and advanced separations solutions.

The company targets traditionally difficult to treat wastewaters from bioprocessing, agricultural waste treatment, food and beverage industries.

Applications include waters rich with fats, oils, proteins and other hard-to-remove organic compounds.

The Zwitterionic polymer

The technology innovation is a "zwitterionic polymer", hence the company name, invented by Dr Ayse Asatekin, a chemical engineering professor at Tufts University.

The polymer forms the active layer of the membrane, which gives it “remarkable resistance” that will help to “unlock new membrane applications that have been un-addressable with spiral elements until now”, the company said.

“The zwitterionic polymer gives remarkable resistance to help unlock new membrane applications.”

Since its founding in 2018, after securing an exclusive license on the technology from the Tufts University Office of Technology Transfer, ZwitterCo has been backed by a $1.25 million US Department of Energy (DoE) grant.

Ongoing oilfield studies, as well as industrial pilot studies, are currently underway.

The funding round was led by global filtration and separations technologies leader Mann+Hummel Corporate Ventures, collaborating with R-Cubed Capital Partners, and additional support from Burnt Island Ventures and individual angel investors.

Opening new markets for filtration

Answering the question of why the company invested in Zwitter, Tom Ferguson from Burnt Island Ventures said: “It’s much easier to win a market that no-one can currently serve. In this case, standard filtration systems literally can’t deal with the streams that ZwitterCo can. They’re opening new markets for filtration at the right price and volume.

“From the ethanol and bioprocessing markets, which have valuable proteins and oils that can be reclaimed, to the agriculture and food and beverage markets, which need high-quality treatment to enable water recycling and ensure compliance, there's a lot of ground to cover.”

“They’re opening new markets for filtration, at the right price and volume.”

The company said ZwitterCo could "fundamentally change the size of the overall market they're working in".

Alex Rappaport, CEO of ZwitterCo, said: “There are clear and urgent challenges in water that ZwitterCo’s solutions can address, including opportunities to expand reuse, solve production bottlenecks, ensure discharge compliance, convert waste streams into valuable products and more.

The company is also an alumnus of the Imagine H2O accelerator program and the Greentown Labs incubator.

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