New Treatment Tech Eyes Zero Liquid Discharge Market

Micronic Technologies was named to Pipeline H2O's 2018 class, and it's targeting the wastewater industry with an innovative process

New Treatment Tech Eyes Zero Liquid Discharge Market

Karen Sorber, CEO of Micronic Technologies

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In 2007, Karen Sorber took a humanitarian trip to Peru where she learned about communities that don’t have access to clean water. “I sure wanted to help those people,” says Sorber, who combined that passion with her now-husband’s scientific skills to launch a company offering technology that could do just that.

The company has since taken a detour, though, focusing first on the wastewater treatment market. Sorber is now owner and CEO of Micronic Technologies of Wise, Virginia. Her husband, Kelly Rock, is CTO. Together, they head up the company that has developed and patented the MicroEVAP — a water purification system that removes almost all contaminants from source water.

The MicroEVAP system by Micronics Technologies
The MicroEVAP system by Micronics Technologies

The company recently was named to the 2018 Pipeline H2O class — a water technology commercialization program which assists startups with developing, commercializing and funding their inventions and processes.

Sorber notes that while Micronic has been part of accelerator programs in the past, “this is the only one focused on the water market.”

She says the company needs investors and strategic partners, adding that it already has spent $3 million in grants and $2 million in other investments to create and refine MicroEVAP, which creates a small concentrated waste stream for efficient disposal.

According to its prospectus MicroEVAP removes more than 300,000 ppm of total dissolved solids and more than 95 percent of inorganics, organics, metals, bacteria, suspended solids and pharmaceuticals.

The process received industry recognition in 2016, winning an international technological challenge awarded by GE and Statoil of Norway.

Initially, Micronics planned to target the water purification market, but found that concentrating high-TDS wastewater effluent was a more immediately available market.

“Our best market is going to be the Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) market,” says Sorber. “We knew from the beginning that we could reduce high-TDS concentrations in wastewater at an extremely high throughput rate, so it follows to reduce the ZLD burden on companies or municipalities who are treating wastewater.”

It’s a pretty miraculous type of technology.”

Karen Sorber, CEO of Micronic Technologies

Right now, Sorber said, disposal transportation costs for high TDS wastewater ranges from 35 cents to $1 per gallon, while MicroEVAP is modeled at 10 cents per gallon.

With grand funding and partnerships with the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and Virginia Tech, Micronic is moving toward commercializing its technology in industrial wastewater markets. The company initially plans to target smaller facilities, particularly those that use reverse osmosis purification. 

How it works

MicroEVAP separates contaminants from water in a single step, using mechanical evaporation, vapor compression and condensation without filters, chemicals, membranes, high pressure or high heat. A chambered cylinder produces a tornadic turbulent flow creating micro droplets of water, allowing for efficient evaporation and recapture of clean water through condensation. Waste or brine generation is of a much lower volume.

Sorber noted that the reconstituted “product water” has been validated through third-party testing to meet drinking water standards.

She also said that various size treatment plants could use MicroEVAP. “It can scale to any size.” Applications can be designed to produce 1,500, 15,000 or 150,000 gpd of product water.

Micronic conducted a field pilot program in Virginia in fall 2017 and is processing a couple hundred gpd. “The next pilot will be designed for 1,500 gallons per day,” Sorber says.

The Pipeline H2O program runs through May, introducing Micronics and other startups to potential resources — like funders and partners — in the region.

Sorber said the company’s objective this year is to build a pilot in a strategic partner’s plant and achieve sales, although Micronics has not yet set a final price point.

“I would love to be able to start manufacturing in 2019,” she says.


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