Pro Aqua im Forbes Magazine
12. Dezember 2012
Hier der Originalartikel aus dem Forbes Magazine vom 30.11.2012:
„Profitable Clean Tech: Pro Aqua Cleans Water With Diamonds
Pro Aqua´s electrodes, made with boron-doped diamond particles, can clean water without chemicals. Pro Aqua´s electrodes, made with boron-doped diamond particles on a plastic layer, can disinfect water without additional chemicals.
Diamonds may be the way to a girl’s heart, but for Pro Aqua, they’re also the path to clean water – and to profit. The 8-year-old company in Niklasdorf, Austria, (not to be confused with companies of the same name that make cleaning systems, lawn sprinklers or aquaculture feed) makes diamond electrodes and cells that purify and disinfect water. Diamonds can’t clean water on their own, but Pro Aqua adds boron to the diamond particles, which enables them to conduct electricity. When electricity passes through them, diamonds interact with water to produce a mix of oxidizers – including ozone, hydroxide radicals and hydrogen peroxide – that automatically disinfect the water, killing bacteria and removing pollutants. They do this without the addition of any other chemicals to start the reaction.
Pro Aqua has been profitable for the last three years. In its 2012 fiscal year, which ended in June, the company netted a profit of EUR434,000 (approximately $564,467) on revenue of just below EUR2 million ($2.6 million). That represents 130 percent growth in revenue – and roughly 88 percent growth in profit – from the year-ago period.
How It All Started
The concept that launched Pro Aqua hatched at the University of Leoben, a small technical university in Austria that conducts minerals and materials research. Staber, who worked as a researcher at the university’s sustainable waste management and technology department, had been trying to figure out how to destroying bacteria in wastewater. He and his research partner, Michael Schelch, knew that diamonds have special characteristics when they interact with electricity and thought that a diamond electrode could do a better job of purifying and disinfecting water than the technologies that were already on the market.
The Diamond Difference
Pro Aqua claims its electrodes are far cheaper than its competitors and much more stable. For one thing, it’s the only company to deposit its electrodes on a plastic layer – a difficult task – and plastic is cheap. It turns out that diamonds, at least the kind that ProAqua uses, also aren’t all that expensive . “These are not the diamonds you like to have on your hands; these are industrial diamonds,” Staber says. “I understand diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but our diamonds are black and not really so wonderful.”
The company faces other risks, too. One of its biggest is that it has only a few customers, so it could see significantly lower sales if one of them runs into economic trouble, Staber says.
Room for growth
Pro Aqua is now looking to expand its customer base. Aside from the pool filtration and food markets, ProAqua sees hopes to help to cure agricultural diseases, specifically fire blight, which is caused by highly destructive bacteria that attack apple, pear and other fruit trees. Fire blight, which has already resulted in large tree and crop losses around the world (more than $150 million in the U.S. alone, according to a 2008 USDA survey), is currently combated with pruning and antibiotic sprays, which lead to antibiotics appearing in the fruits, Staber says.
Pro Aqua is developing a technology – electrolyte water made with its diamond electrodes – to destroy the fire blight bacteria without using antibiotics. In lab tests, the company has successfully rid infected trees of the bacteria using the electrolyte water, Staber says. Pro Aqua plans to start field tests next, and hopes to begin selling the technology in the next two years, he adds.
If it can prove that its solution is effective and affordable, curing fire blight could represent a large potential market for Pro Aqua. But it will have its work cut out introducing a brand new technology into this new market. “It’s very easy to sell a car because there are a lot of cars out there and people know what they are, so you just have to talk about yours being cheaper or better,” Staber says. “If we come to a customer with our technology, they will never have heard of this technology and we’ll have to explain it in detail, spend a lot of time explaining the advantages and the risks, and do a lot of tests. It’s not so easy.”
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