PITA Fiscal Year 2013 Projects

Rapid Transformation of Intellectual Property into Market-Ready Technology in the Water/Environment Sector

Lead University: Lehigh University
PI: Arup K. SenGupta, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Co-PI(s): Todd Watkins, Entrepreneurship Program
PA Industry: Water Innovation with Science and Engineering (WISE), LLC. and Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation

Translating research into a market-worthy product is difficult. Many times real operating conditions are very difficult to mimic during research and development. However, this is less true for many water treatment technologies, especially for the removal of inorganic species. Past research has led our lab to numerous patents and publications around promising new processes. But, only some of them received adequate resources to reach successful commercialization. Current environmental regulations have created favorable climates for development of trace phosphate removal and brackish water desalination.

High phosphorus levels in natural waterways are a significant concern. Every year, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution to waterways cost the US $4.3 billion. Both golf courses and wastewater treatment plants need to address this issue and Thermax, Inc. has asked to license our patented process and to create a novel system to address this market demand. Success is dependent on resources for research and development.

The need for pure water is quickly outpacing increases in production. Future demands will need to be satisfied through water reuse and desalination. Reverse osmosis (RO) is becoming the dominant desalination technique, but systems face many challenges in pre-treatment for long-term operation. During development of a new Marcellus Wastewater process, technology was developed concurrently to enable scale-free RO operations that prevent system damage and decrease energy demands. This new process will shortly be submitted for IP protection. Afterwards, conversations are planned with potential venture capitalists to support system and company scale-up efforts.

Neither of these new technologies can be quickly commercialized without additional lab development to validate results and be confident for future operations. Funding of M.S. and Ph.D. students for research will help to bring these new processes to market. Confidence from knowledge will strengthen conversations with companies and investors and lead to future PA jobs.