Enterprize finalist offers cheaper desalination alternative

15 Oct 2008
Fledging Brisbane-based company Ceramipore - a UQ Business School Enterprize Competition finalist - has found a way to turn salt water into high-quality clean water at a fraction of the cost of other current commercial desalination processes. The start-up company's Project and Marketing Manager, Dr Simon Cashion, said it was Ceramipore's innovative patented membrane coating that differentiated it from other methods, drastically reducing the need for costly electrical energy and potentially cutting production costs by up to 30 per cent. "The dip coating process allows us to control the pore size on the ceramic membrane, such that the salt can't pass through but the water can," Dr Cashion said. "With Reverse Osmosis, which is the current dominant desalination process, water is pushed through the membranes at very high pressure, which uses a lot of electrical energy and is consequently very expensive. "Our competitive advantage is that because of the special coating we are able to make this work at a low pressure and the energy we do use is able to come from renewable sources." Ceramipore is one of seven finalists in UQ Business School's Enterprize competition which awards $100,000 to the group of entrepreneurs judged to have the most promising business idea. Dr Cashion said the six-member team entered the competition to try and get investment in the technology in order to take it to the next level. "Writing a formal business plan is very beneficial for the project in terms of taking it forward and we needed to get funding, so getting that through Enterprize is a great motivator and we believe the technology is ready," he said. Head of UQ Business School Professor Tim Brailsford said Ceramipore was a prime example of the promising new technologies Enterprize was designed to showcase. "Enterprize is about promoting and supporting new venture ideas and helping these young entrepreneurs to build successful businesses," Professor Brailsford said. "They have the innovation; we provide a platform to help turn that innovation into a commercial reality." As an experienced Associate with UQ's main commercialisation company, UniQuest, Dr Cashion is convinced Ceramipore's product has a strong market, focusing on smaller scale desalination where the usual Reverse Osmosis method is too expensive to implement, such as inland Australia, small coast communities, and on industrial sites. "Potentially we have a desalination system that is low energy-consuming and can be built on a small scale, with a wide application," Dr Cashion said. "In a country like Australia where we have such scarce water resources, finding a way to produce extremely clean water cheaply with low energy consumption is very exciting. It is essentially like finding a new water source," he said. All seven Enterprize finalists will present their bright ideas to the public at Enterprize Pitch Day on Thursday 16 October. For more information about Enterprize see www.enterprize.uq.edu.au. To enquire about Pitch Day please email events@business.uq.edu.au.