Developing an agnostic graphene solution
The roll-out of commercial-scale graphene water filtration may be a while off, yet a British start-up is developing a novel oxide coating solution for membranes. Tom Freyberg looks into the development.
G2O Water Technologies is developing a graphene oxide coating that it plans to license to be applied to polymeric and ceramic membranes to improve performance.
A further investment of £600,000 has enabled the organisation to relocate to a UK science and innovation campus, called Sci-Tech Daresbury.
Chris Wyres, chief executive of G2O, said that the solution can be applied during or after the membrane manufacturing process.
Speaking to Aquatech Online, he said: “We’ve developed a range of graphene oxide coatings that enable application across both polymeric and ceramic membranes, including ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis or microfiltration.”
Two industrial validation trials are currently underway, including a Carbon Trust funded pilot to treat wastewater from UK’s largest industrial laundry company.
“Early stage analysis indicates a potential 85 per cent energy saving treating the wastewater” he said.
“The G2O coating, significantly reduces fouling, chemical use and frequency of cleaning required on the membranes, delivering significant gains in operational efficiency, whilst reducing the cost and environmental impact of water treatment.”
Target markets and potential challenges
G2O’s target markets include industrial wastewater treatment, desalination and domestic water treatment, as well as produced water from the oil & gas sector.
"Membrane penetration in produced water treatment has been limited due to fouling concerns, but the G2O graphene oxide coating has proven potential to overcome this challenge," added Wyres.
Dr Graeme Pearce, principal of Membrane Consultancy Associates, believes the investment shows faith in the solution, despite remaining headwinds.
Speaking to Aquatech Online, he said: "The investment shows confidence in G2O's business but does not describe progress with developing the technology. A high-performance membrane needs to be combined with an effective product and system designed to realise its benefits.
"In water and wastewater applications, this is very challenging due to the flowrates to be treated and the presence of foulants."
Manchester – at the heart of graphene developments
Located just outside of UK-city Manchester, the innovation campus lies in a region that has deeper roots in graphene.
The University of Manchester first isolated the material in 2004. At one atom thick, graphene consists of carbon atoms arranged in a perfect hexagonal lattice.
It has since been heralded as stronger than steel and diamond, yet flexible with heat and electrical conductivity properties.
In 2018 graphene once again grabbed water-related headlines after scientists demonstrated an ability to “tune” the membrane properties, controlling the level of water filtration.
The University of South Wales (UNSW) has been collaborating with Australian utility Sydney Water to apply graphene to wastewater treatment and purify methane from biogas.
Previous G2O investment rounds
The £600,000 investment included £320,000 from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) and £280,000 funding from an unnamed private individual investor and management.
Previous investments include approximately £1.5 million of private equity and venture capital and £1.7 million of UK government grant funding.
Founder and previous CEO, Tim Harper, remains a shareholder and supporter of the business.