Top 10 articles of 2022: Aquatech Online recap

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

Which Aquatech Online articles were the most popular this year? From company acquisitions to recycled water beer and wave powered desalination, we recap the 10 articles from 2022 that attracted the most attention.

10) ‘Alexa, run me a bath’ – 4 smart water home innovations from CES 2022

As one of the world’s biggest technology events, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is generally a good barameter of the latest home innovations.

Evolving beyond simply point of use filtration solutions, smart water home innovations have become increasingly visible at the event.

Looking into the 2022 coverage, we found four smart water technologies that were showcased in Las Vegas. 

From a water security system, to an autofilling bath and motion control smart tap, check out the highlights here:

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9) Unlocking the final effluent pathway to green hydrogen

Hydrogen has been touted as a solution to help achieve the low carbon economy by 2030.

A whitepaper from engineering consultancy, Jacobs, found that a “final effluent pathway” could eventually help to unlock green hydrogen production from the water sector.

The report identified pathways for hydrogen production at wastewater treatment works and sludge treatment centres.

As well as the benefits, the paper also highlighted the concerns. For example, if hydrogen is considered green it must be produced using verifiably renewable electricity.

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8) TECH DIVE: Moment of truth for ceramic membranes

Often a popular article on Aquatech’s Online community, the ‘TECH DIVE’ series is designed to look into a particular development of a core technology focus of Aquatech, for example membranes.

For this latest edition, we dived into ceramic membranes – the toughened cousin of polymeric membranes that have had success in industrial applications but have been waiting for their moment in municipal applications.

According to membrane expert, Dr Graeme Pearce, the “perfect storm conditions have arrived” for ceramics to take off. He told Aquatech Online how the “prices are levelling out” and how ceramics offer greater longevity than polymerics, with the ability to handle significantly higher fluxes.

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7) Five companies shaping real-time surface water monitoring

With surface water monitoring becoming an increasingly competitive landscape, we looked into the innovations gaining traction in the market.

A combination of decreasing sensor price, together with robust offerings is enabling real-time data to be put into the hands of operators globally.

This included five companies: AquaRealTime, Watr, LG Sonic, the RAEON buoy and finally drones equipped with remote sensing systems from Singapore water agency, PUB.

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6) Water technology innovation to recover lithium

A booming demand for electric vehicles (EVs) has accelerated demand for battery materials such as lithium.

Highly reactive and cannot be found in its pure form, one way to mine lithium is to extract it from a mineral-rich brine.
However, this is not a quick process and the water demands for lithium can remain extremely high, with one tonne of lithium needing 500,000 gallons of water to produce.
German speciality chemicals company Lanxess announced a new method for recycling lithium using ion exchange resins. The solution was developed to treat low-concentration lithium salt solutions containing alkali, alkaline earth and heavy metals and relatively high concentrations.

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5) ‘The wonderful everyday’ water recycling: IKEA invests in Danish shower

IKEA – the home of flat packed furniture and Swedish meatballs, right? Wrong.

In its strategy to help scale start-ups, the Inter IKEA Group announced a minority equity investment in Flow Loop, a Danish start-up developing a water recycling shower solution to enable customers to be more water and energy efficient.

The solution uses a combination of pre-filters, microfilters and ultraviolet treatment (UV) purifiers.

By recycling and cleaning the shower water in a closed loop, the solution can reduce water usage by up to 80 per cent and generate energy savings of up to 70 per cent, compared to a conventional shower.

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4) Is biomonitoring the future? A chat with Orb’s CEO, Lorenzo Falzarano

“There’s a crisis beneath our feet.”

That was according to Lorenzo Falzarono, CEO of water technology start-up, Orb. Speaking to us earlier in the year, he discussed the drivers behind the need for biomonitoring: utilities looking to get ahead of their future water concerns by having technology that can track, in real-time, what is in their water.

A pilot project with UK utility Anglian Water is currently using two monitors in its water treatment works and treated water distribution system. The ambition is to establish accurate cell counts of the utility’s lab-based flow cytometer to see whether they are correlated.

An interesting example of a start-up progressing in the real-time, water quality space:

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3) Why we bought PWNT: Holterman strengthens Dutch tech powerhouse with ceramics

An interview article in January continued to prove popular all year round.

We reported how Dutch ceramic membrane company PWNT had been acquired by Nijhuis Saur Industries.

PWNT had become the poster child for ceramic membranes, particularly showcasing how they could be scaled up for municipal, drinking water purposes.

However, facing a challenging journey in scaling international with the utility mothership PWN back in the Netherlands, a sale and new ownership was perhaps an inevitability.

After SAUR acquired Nijhuis Industries, the vision has been to create a reference player in the industrial water market, a segment estimated to be worth €20-25 billion per year. And one of the companies many acquisitions was PWNT.

In an exclusive interview, we spoke to Nijhuis Saur Industries CEO, Menno Holterman, about how the ceramic membranes will strengthen the company’s toolbox to expand further into the surface water treatment market.

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2) Saudi claims the world’s largest (RO) desalination plant title, for now

Earlier in the year, the news broke how the Rabigh3 Independent Water Plant in Saudi Arabia had been awarded the world’s largest reverse osmosis desalination plant, according to the Guinness World Records.

The 600 m3/day facility received the certification after a three-week process by the Independent Records Management. 

Is the largest? That depends. The Ras Al Khair desalination plant produces a staggering 1,036,000 m3/day but also uses thermal, multistage flash technology, alongside RO membranes. So technically, it can’t be considered for the world’s largest RO only desalination plant.

Furthermore, the Rabigh3 record may not stand for long. At the time of reporting, the Taweelah desalination plant in the UAE could eventually produce 909,200 m3/day, once completed.

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1) 7 investors every water technology start-up should know

As Liza Minnelli once sang, ‘Money makes the world go round’.

With more dedicated water sector investors and finance being unlocked for water technologies, we looked into which funds that should be worth knowing.

In 2021 alone, $470 million was raised by water start-ups across 90 countries, according to GWI WaterData.

There have been notable investments into digital technologies. For example, smart water company Olea Edge Analytics raising $35 million Series C investment, as well as Canadian company Klir raising $16 million Series A.
Furthermore, a $105 million raise by Gradiant Corporation effectively valued the company as the industry’s first “half unicorn” ($500 million).
Despite the criticism from new entrants that attracting investment is a challenge, we heard from certain investors who said significant amounts of finance are available but that the water space lacks companies that are “investable”, especially when it comes to scalability.

In light of the above, we spoke to seven investors we believe every water technology start-up and company should know:

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