ETH spin-off makes splash on global market

Researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich have developed a filter membrane capable of removing heavy metals and other toxic substances from water. They founded their spin-off BluAct Technologies in response to strong international demand.

 Raffaele Mezzenga (l.)und Sreenath Bolisetty
A filter membrane developed at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich is capable of removing heavy metals and other toxic substances from water. (picture credit: Mezzenga Lab/ETH Zürich)

The filter developed by ETH Professor Raffaele Mezzenga and his senior researcher Sreenath Bolisetty consists of a simple mixture of denatured whey proteins and activated charcoal applied to a filter paper as a substrate. According to the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, the filter is capable of effectively filtering out heavy metals and radioactive waste, as well as bacteria and other toxic substances, such as arsenic. In principle, it can be made to any size. 

In response to considerable global interest in the membrane, the researchers founded the ETH spin-off BluAct Technologies GmbH in May with the financial backing of the investor Keith Boonstra. Since then BluAct has registered patents for the membrane in 90 different countries and the first batch of prototype membranes has just been produced at an industrial scale. Production of the membrane is being outsourced to external partners for the time being.

BluAct has already signed a contract with ISL Group, will distribute water bottles with filters in Asia, Africa and Latin America to people without access to clean drinking water. “This is purely a humanitarian project that is very close to our hearts,” said Professor Mezzenga. 

BluAct aims to earn money from mining or industrial companies. For instance, the membrane is currently being tested by an operator for decontamination of European nuclear plants. 

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