Water Treatment Technology is Putting Carbon to Use

by Editor,  Esther Chan.

In an interview with CleanTech News, Andre Stolz, the co-founder of EcoWorth Tech, discusses his pursuit of a bigger impact on society through water treatment technologies. 

Andre Stolz left his corporate career of 17 years at Proctor and Gamble with the motivation to do something that will make an impact on society. He met his co-founder Dr Bert Grobben in Singapore while they still working their corporate jobs before they set their sights on revolutionising water treatment. 

“We wanted to create a bigger social and environmental impact, so we started looking at preventative healthcare and science-based technologies that could help the cause,” said Mr Stolz. 

Eventually, the duo set their sights on a proprietary carbon fibre aerogel (CFA) that helps treat highly contaminated water. They applied for an IP-license, incorporated the company, and founded EcoWorth Tech. 

What is CFA and what does it do?

The material was invented by Dr. Zhang Hua from Nanyang Technological University’s School of Materials Science and Engineering.

EcoWorth Tech has since demonstrated CFA’s ability to efficiently absorb organic contaminants from wastewater with major oil & gas, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and chemical companies. Organic waste includes industrial oils, food oils and solvents amongst others. 

The technology is eco-friendly and is manufactured from cellulose-based waste material like cotton wool or waste paper through a proprietary “controlled burning” process. The resulting carbon fibre aerogel can absorb up to 190 times its own weight in organic waste.  

This CFA-based treatment process is up to twenty times cheaper than current commercial alternatives. It selectively absorbs organic waste and does not absorb water. The absorbed organic waste can then be recovered for recycling, creating additional commercial value for corporations looking to adopt the technology. 

EcoWorth Tech Team. Water treatment - CleanTechNews
EcoWorth Tech Team, Mr. Stolz on the far right 
How EcoWorth Tech uses CFTA 

Andre told CleanTech News that “This material can help manage oil spills and is superior to activated carbon which is commonly used. The contact time is shorter, the process is five times faster and can be built on smaller spaces if there are space constraints.”

EcoWorth Tech provides modular equipment to corporations where wastewater treatment is needed. Mr. Stolz told CleanTech News that the system “is easily scalable to suit the needs of the client where adjustments can be made to cater to different water contaminations type and level.” 

The CFA solution can be directly installed onsite, negating the need to send wastewater to third party waste management systems. Thanks to the Singapore-based invention, the recycling of wastewater may soon become cheaper, more efficient, and sustainable. 

If left untreated, wastewater will deplete oxygen levels in water bodies and kill aquatic life

Effluent is difficult to process because it is often the result of challenging industrial processes that create complex wastewater streams. They contain high levels of organic matter like oil and grease that require specialist treatment. 

Toxic organic matter can kill aquatic life, contaminate food chains and promote algae blooms. Algae blooms compete with aquatic life for oxygen and lead to fish die-out.  

A depletion of oxygen kills aquatic organisms which will then be broken down by decomposers like bacteria again, depleting more oxygen and the vicious cycle continues. 

Present wastewater treatment systems are a custom solution because of its complexity, and costs add up quickly. But with CFA, because of its broad application, it can absorb most organic waste and can help corporations to cut significant costs. 

Water treatment - CleanTech News
NRDC
By putting a commercial value on waste, EcoWorth Tech incentivises its customers 

Through mechanical squeezing, EcoWorth Tech can recover valuable waste material in the process. Mr. Stolz shared with CleanTech News that “For chemical companies, we enable them to recuperate chemicals like hexane and octane for reuse in their production and conserve up to $600K SGD a year. We also help them comply with wastewater limits.”

“We are also exploring applications of CFA in cosmetic products, for more efficient removal of excess skin oil and as a nutrient carrier. The technology could also be used in the palm oil industry to help increase its palm oil yield by extracting it from palm oil-water.” 

“Additionally, waste cotton from the textile industry could be used to produce CFA since it is a cellulosic material.” 

“The technology can help users save up to 50% on the cost compared to conventional solutions and processes water to be clean enough to be discharged into the environment. With increased water reuse and environmentally friendly CFA, it can also help businesses achieve their corporate social responsibility goals.”

“The technology as of now can treat 3000-6000 litres a day, and we are looking to scale that to a few thousand litres per hour. The recovered food waste oil can also be incorporated into biofuels and fertiliser.”

Moving forward 

EcoWorth Tech has won several awards including the L’Oreal Innovation Runway 2019 and was named the Sector Winner for Sustainability at Slingshot 2019. It is also currently on a three-month program with Shell, looking to deploy a solution.

EcoWorth Tech is currently raising $500K SGD before it launches to its commercial stage. 

For more information on clean water technologies, please see here.

Esther Chan

Esther is a Senior Writer at CleanTech News. Esther first discovered cleantech when in Italy, she worked with companies to integrate existing business practises with new sustainability initiatives. Her passion for environmental protection has grown much since. Through her writing, she aims to shine a light on how corporations, start-ups, and individuals alike can champion sustainability through clean technology. With her grounding in science, she looks to bridge the gap between academia and industry practise in clean technology with her focus on tech innovation and has even founded a startup herself.