Cleantech Open winners take prize for water tech

November 24, 2010


The Cleantech Open announced the winners of its annual startup competition on Tuesday, and as usual the victors offer some insight into what the investors, entrepreneurs and tech executives who serve as judges think may be the next big thing. This year the word was water.

The $250,000 national grand prize went to Puralytics, a Beaverton, Ore., company that makes photochemical water purification systems that use natural and artificial light to destroy contaminants.

The process taps what Puralytics calls “previously unobtainable” ultraviolet wavelengths to break down the molecular bonds of such pollutants as mercury, arsenic and chromium and render them harmless. The process can also eliminate pathogens from a water supply, the company says.

The benefit of such a system, according to Puralytics, is that the hazardous materials are destroyed rather than removed from the water and then disposed of in a landfill.

Mark Owen, the startup’s founder and chief executive, said at the Cleantech Open awards ceremony that Puralytics has started to sell a light industrial water purification system and a “solar bag” designed for developing nations.

“You just put it out in the sunlight and it’s able to purify water anywhere at any time,” he said.

The judges had water on their minds. The winner of the Cleantech Open’s national sustainability award was BioVantage Resources, a Golden, Colo., startup developing an algae-based wastewater treatment system that could turn contaminants into fertilizer, biofuels and other products.

Founded in Silicon Valley in 2006 to promote promising San Francisco Bay Area startups, the Cleantech Open expanded to the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountain regions in 2009 and went national this year.

One of two runner-ups for the national grand prize was  OnChip Power of Boston, which makes miniaturized power-supply-on-a-chip systems for consumer electronics. The other runner-up was EarthClean, a Minneapolis company that has developed a non-toxic biodegradable fire suppressant foam for firefighters.

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