Water | Ecotrope

Prize-winning idea: Using light to clean toxic water

Ecotrope | Nov. 29, 2010 5:50 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:44 p.m.

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Beaverton-based Puralytics is the first Oregon-based company to win the Cleantech Open. Its water-purification technology uses light to break down the molecular structure of toxic pollutants and render them harmless.

Beaverton-based Puralytics is the first Oregon-based company to win the Cleantech Open. Its water-purification technology uses light to break down the molecular structure of toxic pollutants and render them harmless.

Beaverton-based water-purification start-up Puralytics won a $250,000 grand prize last week in the fifth annual Cleantech Open, a competition promoting green innovations.

The three-year-old company is making waves with its photochemical technology that uses natural and artificial light to destroy water contaminants – rendering harmless toxic pollutants such as mercury, arsenic and chromium. The purification system breaks down the molecular bonds of the toxics, rather than removing them from the water supply (which requires storing them in a safe disposal site).

The company has a light industrial water purification system and a mobile “solar bag” that purifies smaller batches of water and is intended for use in developing nations.

“You just put it out in the sunlight and it’s able to purify water anywhere at any time,” Mark Owen, the startup’s founder and chief executive, said at the Cleantech Open awards ceremony.

SF Gate reports Puralytics is the first non-California-based company to win the national prize and the first winner to focus on water technology (as opposed to renewable energy or energy efficiency).

The San Jose Mercury News reports this award could mark a trend toward growing investment in clean-water technology, and promises improvements in global health:

“Many say that water startups are ripe for investment, in part because the world’s water situation is so dire.

The World Health Organization estimates that one in three people globally lacks access to clean drinking water. Population growth and crumbling infrastructure are making sustainably managed water even scarcer, trends grimly underscored by the cholera epidemic that is devastating Haiti. The health and environmental impacts of contaminated water are enormous: WHO notes that wastewater is increasingly used in agricultural production, and that more than 10 percent of the world’s population consumes food irrigated by wastewater that can contain chemicals and disease-causing organisms.”

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