The spin-out from UCD has developed cutting-edge technology that has scooped a string of awards and attracted investors.
OxyMem recently secured €20 million in funding from the Dow Chemical Company, finance which will accelerate the commercialisation of its product, the Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (MABR).
The Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (MABR) solves energy-intensive wastewater treatment with a simple oxygen delivery process using four times less energy than current systems.
The innovation has placed the firm as a key player in what is currently a $4.3Billion market in global aeration systems.
OxyMem was co-founded by Wayne Byrne and Professor Eoin Casey and Doctor Eoin Syron, who are both based at UCD.
Prof Casey and Dr Syron began looking into the development of a more energy-efficient way of treating wastewater in the late 1990s.
Their concept was based on research from the 1970s but “due to a high production cost of membranes and a lack of control solutions for the system, it was not commercialised,” says Wayne Byrne.
Byrne, OxyMem’s Managing Director, recalls how in 2005, the researchers filed a patented control solution.
“We then turned our attention to membrane production and by 2012 had produced a prototype machine to reduce the membrane production costs by 10 fold.
“It was only then that it became possible to commercialise the technology,” says Byrne.
Wastewater treatment is very energy intensive and consumes 2-3% of global electricity production. For over 100 years, conventional wastewater treatment has relied on bubble aeration to supply oxygen to the biology that breakdown the waste water, resulting in 65 – 70 per cent of energy being wasted to atmosphere.
This has led to major financial and operational challenges for wastewater treatment. Operators have had to endure high operating expenditure costs driven by high energy demands, skilled labour, and sludge disposal.
OxyMem does not use bubbles for oxygen delivery and therefore has multiple technical and commercial advantages for operators.
“We utilise gas permeable membranes to deliver oxygen directly to the micro-organisms that break down the carbon and nitrogen based pollutants,” says Byrne.
OxyMem achieves superior performance, on a smaller footprint, with less sludge production, fewer operator hours, and achieves energy savings in excess of 75 per cent.
OxyMem has been evaluated by independent industry analysts who verify that it is the highest performing aeration solution with the lowest overall cost.
The global aeration systems market is worth €4.3Billion and it is estimated it will be valued at over €7.37Billion by 2020.
According to OxyMem, within this headline growth, the growth of energy-efficient solutions is estimated to outpace traditional, energy-intensive technologies.
Byrne thinks that Ireland has built up a lot of credibility as an energy-efficient country, and that Sustainable Nation Ireland is crucial for making an impact. “I think leadership in this space is critical for lots of sound reasons which bring social, environmental and commercial drivers into alignment,” Byrne says.
“”This mission is important for anyone with children, grandchildren and/or shareholders! Also, making a positive social and environmental impact these days can be very rewarding commercially.”