In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution stating that access to clean drinking water and sanitation is a basic human right. Yet the World Health Organization estimates that one in 10 people don’t have a source of safe drinking water, while one in three lack toilet access.
To help them, an Indian entrepreneur has developed a water treatment method that is cheaper, more environmentally friendly and more robust than energy-intensive conventional methods, using a material usually associated with wealth.
A jewel used to purify water
While prized as a jewel by women all over the world, diamonds are also valued for their purity, high stability and robustness. As Raphael Kiran discovered, this means they make great electrodes that can purify water for a fraction of the cost of conventional methods.
During his PhD in electrochemistry, Mr. Kiran worked at the Diamond Sensors Laboratory in the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). There, he invented an energy-efficient technique to automate the cleaning of diamond electrodes. That was the initial spark. Smart cleaning techniques and low-cost production of diamond electrodes followed.
By 2014, Mr. Kiran had teamed up with two other scientists and a business developer, and together they applied for and were selected by the French Tech Ticket Global Startup competition. Mr. Kiran credits the program for the support they subsequently received, including legal and technical advice, market research, as well as funds to develop their project.
Here’s how it works: firstly, Dymond Cleantech uses 60% less power, reducing operating costs.
Diamond electrode made everything possible
Secondly, it is 100% chemical-free. This is because a chemical that can purify water is contained within water itself. The diamond electrode splits the water molecules, creating a very reactive hydroxyl radical that incinerates the pollutants and microbes without generating any waste. The process eliminates the pathogenic micro-organisms that cause diseases such as cholera and hepatitis more efficiently than a number of chemicals – and without any of the hazardous byproducts.
Dymond Cleantech’s process also employs an automated biofilm cleaning technology that cleanses the electrode of biofilm and mineral deposits, improving the durability and service life of the electrode and reducing maintenance costs. The company estimates that service life will exceed 20 years.
Their first product is the Diamond Shower, which cleans and recycles the wastewater from the shower, which accounts for 40% of household water use. They are also developing a product with a pilot customer to completely recycle gray water.
The potential market is huge. Dymond Cleantech plans to offer ultra-pure water treatment systems to high-tech firms in industries such as pharmaceuticals, semiconductors and biomedicine; water recycling technologies for agricultural and domestic purposes; and wastewater treatment technologies to breweries and car washes.
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