The Ozark Reactor
A University of Arkansas-based startup has been awarded a $75,000 Small Business Innovation and Research Award from the Department of Defense to use chemical engineering methods to remove perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, from contaminated water.
CatalyzeH2O, an engineering firm that creates nanotechnology and electrochemical solutions for clean water, received the contract through the U.S. Air Force. The company is developing the Ozark Reactor, a water treatment system that eliminates PFAS from water.
PFAS are manmade chemicals used in a range of products, often as coatings and water repellents in things like cookware, firefighting foams and food packaging. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down over time. PFAS chemicals are associated with cancer and can disrupt thyroid, liver and kidney function, among other dangers and are present in the water of nearly every air base in the country.
“This grant will enable CatalyzeH2O to take advantage of new innovations in the electrochemical industry and apply them to our developing technology,” said Aaron Ivy, vice president of CatalyzeH2O. “This will allow us to ensure our water treatment reactor is robust, capable of handling any harmful, toxic or carcinogenic compounds and protect the world’s water.”
CatalyzeH2O was founded by Shelby Foster, who has multiple degrees from the University of Arkansas, and Lauren Greenlee, a former associate professor of chemical engineering at the U of A. The Ozark Reactor technology is based off research done by Humeyra Ulusoy Erol, another graduate of the U of A with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.
Ulusoy Erol’s work previously contributed to the Oasis Reactor, a project funded by the Department of Defense to provide a more efficient and less expensive system for removing explosives from water through innovative catalyst technology combined with electrochemical oxidation. The Oasis, which was developed through this grant, will be piloted on military bases in early 2023.
“CatalyzeH2O is excited to use this grant from the Air Force to develop a sustainable solution that would put an end to these ‘forever chemicals’ that affect millions globally,” said Ulusoy Erol. “We are combining cutting edge technologies to form a new water treatment platform that will pave the way for the destruction of these compounds in our water.”
Ivy anticipates Phase I will prove the feasibility of the Ozark reactor for the Air Force. Phase II would then be a two-year period to develop a marketable product that would be used in cleanup operations on airbases and airports across the United States.
The federal Small Business Innovation and Research award program incentivizes small businesses to pursue research and development with the potential for commercialization. The goal is for businesses to reach their technological potential and to create a pathway to profitability through commercialization.
About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas’ flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.
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