UV Sciences Tries to Tap Into Water Purification Industry With Smaller and Less Costly Technology

4/29/10Follow @bvbigelow

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DEKA Research & Development, the Manchester, NH-based company run by Dean Kamen, who made a fortune inventing an improved insulin pump and gained fame as inventor of the Segway.

DEKA is a UV Sciences customer, Chaffee says. “We had planned a meeting with them on Thursday to review the progress on their project,” Chaffee writes in an e-mail. “One of them is an MIT grad and had seen the bulletin, and since they arrived Wednesday afternoon they asked if they could attend.”

Kamen (a Boston Xconomist) has long been interested in developing inexpensive water purification devices, ostensibly for developing countries where high infant mortality rates are attributed to poor water quality. “While they will not tell us about their final product, we do know that they are using our system to remove chlorine out of tap water,” Chaffee says. “I think it is safe to assume that it doesn’t have anything to do with 3rd world countries.”

Chaffee and Cooper explain that ultraviolet light generated by a low-pressure mercury vapor lamp sterilizes microbes by penetrating the cellular wall at two wavelengths—185 and 254 nanometers—which disrupt the organisms’ DNA.

One problem with ultraviolet light, though is that the stainless steel typically used to make water purification chambers absorbs UV light energy, so that much of the UV light emitted is converted to heat energy. To compensate, designers use multiple UV lamps—essentially adding additional lamps to ensure that all the water pumped through the chamber gets adequately exposed to UV light.  UV Sciences addressed the issue by developing a highly reflective film for the inner chamber walls, which reflects 98 percent of the UV light—instead of absorbing more than 80 percent. It sounds simple, Chaffee says, but the company has obtained two patents for the design.

UV Sciences says the UV generated at wavelengths of 185 and 254 nanometers also provide the most benefit in terms of breaking up chemical contaminants, such as chlorine compounds and long-chain hydrocarbon molecules. Chaffee says the … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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