[Extract] "I was not the student they would have expected to have a career!" - Alex Rappaport - ZwitterCo
Alex Rappaport is the CEO and Co-Founder of ZwitterCo. ZwitterCo leverages the benefits of Zwitterions to build Membranes that treat the world's toughest wastewater.
Theoretically speaking, wastewater treatment is easy. You have water with stuff inside at the inlet, and you want water with much less stuff inside at the outlet. So you just have to define what has to be removed, and you could size a membrane to do exactly that job.
Let's say, you want everything that's larger than 1 nanometer to be out of the picture. You take a reverse osmosis membrane, you push your wastewater on one end, and whatever comes out on the other end will fit your specification. Easy, the job's done, goodbye!
Well... The problem is that if that system was to work, it would for sure not work long. Your membrane would be clogged, and irreversibly fouled, and after minutes to hours, you would have to throw it away and start fresh.
Now, nobody except me would be stupid enough to try something like that out. So in most cases, you won't go for a one-step treatment; you'll rather opt for a clever combination, where stuff gets removed from water layer by layer with optimized efficiency.
Stages of this process will probably be done with membranes, and if you want to end up reusing that water, the last step will for sure be done with membranes.
But even if you have this time designed everything right, your membranes will still clog over time, and backwash will lose efficiency cycle after cycle until irreversible fouling is so high you have to replace your system.
So, every 7 to 12 years, you're good to reinvest in membranes, modules, and some peripherals. Unless someone cracks the code for fouling-free membranes... But that's physically not possible, right?
Well, that's before looking into the surprising physical properties of Zwitterions, a special family of molecules that are simultaneously positively and negatively charged. As a result, they're highly hydrophilic and very resistant to non-specific adhesion.
So wouldn't that make them the best special sauce to pump up a membrane filtration system? I'll let Alex answer this in a minute, as he'll do it so much better than me.
But you'll swiftly notice that it's a fascinating take at the toughest wastewaters and most difficult industrial reuse riddles.
To that extent, ZwitterCo is a perfect example of innovation with impact. If that's a theme you'd like to explore in greater depth, Innovation with Impact is also the tagline of the upcoming BlueTech Forum, happening in Edinburgh on the 17th and 18th of May. The agenda is packed with great speakers, mastermind roundtable sessions, "innovation for impact" box design sprints, 5 by 5 partnership case studies, lots of networking opportunities, and BlueTech's signature cherry-picked disruptive water tech innovations.
That's just a bite-sized summary of a packed agenda - if you'd like to know more, check out bluetechforum.com - and consider joining me and many former guests of this podcast in Edinburgh this May. I talked of cherry-picked innovation: well there's a cherry on the cake as well: with the code Antoine20, like my name, 20, you'll get a 20% discount on your registration if you book before the end of April.
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➡️ Check out the entire article on ZwitterCo's leverage of Zwitterions">Zwitterions and how it could revolutionize the World of industrial wastewater treatment, including an infographic and a full transcript on the (don't) Waste Water website!