Many people in the developing world are exposed to unsanitary living conditions and often left no choice but to drink water from contaminated streams, rivers or other surface water. Ironically, while they need to drink water for basic survival that same water can also make them sick. Dysentery can often be deadly in poor countries, let alone something like the Ebola virus. Indeed, dirty water may be responsible for more deaths than all major diseases combined.
Access to clean water is a real challenge in developing countries. In Africa, 400 million people do not have access to it while 70% of African hospitals beds are occupied by people suffering from preventable diseases related to water quality and sanitation. Meanwhile, most commercial filters contain biocides (such as silver compounds) that make them expensive and not easily accessible to local people. Innovation is needed to adopt cost-effective water sanitation methods in order to reduce water-related diseases, which will go a long way to improve market and local economic conditions in the developing world, where in many areas, access to potable water and sanitation remain unresolved priorities. While the Ebola virus is not strictly a waterborne disease – it is spread by animals and close contact – it has brought the world’s attention on the ease with which viral illnesses spread in developing regions of the world. Innovation could allow, in addition to reducing water-related diseases, locals to create a market in countries where sanitation remains a problem.
NanoStruck Technologies Inc. (‘Nanostruck’, TSX: NSK | OTCQX: NSKTF | Frankfurt: 8NSK) is a Canadian company based in Mississauga, ON that is developing technologies that can remove particles, at the molecular level, from water using patented absorbent organic polymers. The technology has a number of applications and can be used from water sanitation and purification (whether the water has been affected by contaminants of either a biological or industrial nature) to materials recovery. The ‘filters’ use biologically derived materials, which depending on the application, can be drawn from the shells of crustaceans or from plants. The nanometer-sized polymers behave like molecular sponges and they can be designed to address the specific particle to be absorbed. Therefore, the ‘sponges’ can detect and trap acids, hydrocarbons, pathogens, oils and toxins from water. They can also be used to recover precious metal particles often found in water such as gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium.
Nanostruck in conjunction with researchers from the University of Saskatchewan have been able to isolate the characteristics of crustaceans such as shrimp or lobsters, which are able to survive in highly polluted environments because their shells are one of nature’s most effective filters. The ‘shrimp’ derived sponges can be combined with other methods such as ultrasonic waves and electrical coagulation to further break down organic particles and oils. In July, Nanostruck announced that it had signed a binding agreement to acquire a technology company, which will expand the reach of its technology both in research capability, revenue and profitability. Between 2011 and 2013, the target company recorded annual revenues of between CAD$ 4.23 million and CAD$ 7.03 million and a pre-tax profit of between USD$ 460,000 and $ 1,210,000. The Target Company offers clean technology solutions for the mining, water treatment, clean energy and specialty chemicals industry such that Nanostruck will be able to offer more integrated solutions based on its nanotechnology in line with the Company’s expansion strategy in such areas as water treatment, tailings and mineral processing across a wider range of markets. The Target Company also owns patents and brings a great deal of expertise based on proprietary technologies.
Last February, Nanostruck signed a deal with Nano Africa and its subsidiary, New World Sanitations (NWS), reached an agreement such that NWS intends to increase sales of its sanitation system, which utilizes Nanostruck’s ‘NanoClear Filters’ – while also marketing and promoting NanoStruck’s NanoPure water purification and NanoMet precious metal retrieval systems in South Africa. NWS has developed a wastewater treatment system that will reduce the water consumption of a family of five at 300 liters annually. The system is especially suitable for areas where no wastewater treatment plant is available. NWS and provides a competitive advantage in the South African market. NWS and NanoAfrica also give Nanostruck a much wider access to the African market, where strong demand for its technology is expected.