Startup banks on AF technology to cleanse water supplies


Greene County News

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — An Air Force technology designed to filter oxygen from jet fuel may soon be available to protect consumers from well water contaminants and tainted public water supplies, like those in Flint, Michigan.

InfiniPure – a startup based in Dayton – is developing a filtration system under a newer patent licensing agreement with Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The system is essentially a series of small pipes, within a larger pipe, that are made of specialized materials and coupled with existing ion exchange technology. No power or tank would be needed in the process, which would be installed where water comes into a home and offers a continuous flow.

The company recently secured $15,000 in funding at the University of Dayton Business Plan Competition and is reviewing other potential funding sources, such as grants. Officials also have been in discussions with several investment groups.

InfiniPure was spawned by the Technology Acceleration Program in Dayton, which recruits college students from a variety of backgrounds to analyze selected AFRL technologies and determine the viability of taking them to market. Also known as TAP, the program was created by The Entrepreneurs Center in Dayton in partnership with AFRL’s Small Business Office and the Wright Brothers Institute.

During the program, which is hosted by The Entrepreneurs Center, scientists and engineers from the lab work with student teams through the process. When it makes sense, a business plan is developed to attract outside funding. Those AFRL researchers could also mentor or have ties to the new business.

InfiniPure was launched by Kristy Rochon, a Central State University chemistry and biology major; Gavin Doll, a finance major at Wright State University; and Andrew Hamilton, an accounting and finance major at the University of Dayton. After assessing about a dozen pre-selected AFRL technologies, the trio was drawn to an invention by Dr. Wesley Hoffman, principal scientist for AFRL’s Combustion Dynamics Group.

Behind the technology

Formally known as axial capillary slit fibers, this invention utilizes a small slide (an “axial slit”) on the side of a capillary tube to greatly increase liquid filtering capacity, rate of absorption and separation – with much less sensitivity to pressure fluctuations. The size and shape of the slit, along with the materials of the tube, helps determine what gets through and what is removed from the liquid.

InfiniPure is touting this technology a more precise filtration that is not yet on the commercial market. The original invention had nothing to do with water, but the InfiniPure team and their AFRL mentor saw an opportunity to apply it in a unique way.

“If you think of a water softener, how you put the salt in and it takes away the calcium and magnesium, that’s what we’re trying to do, but each individual capillary is a water softener and we’re filtering much more,” Hamilton said. “We’re filtering lead, arsenic, nitrate, nitrite, etc.”

InfiniPure will target the residential market and look to release a one-size-fits all system as well as systems designed to meet specific filtration needs. With 15 million homes on private well systems and the growing concern over public water supplies, the potential is enormous.

“Flint was the inspiration, but from there we realized (the issue) is much, much larger,” Doll said.

How the partnership works

AFRL – headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio – manages a multi-billion dollar science and technology portfolio to address specific needs, but also is required to meet technology transfer benchmarks. TAP is one of the newer, more aggressive models for getting Air Force intellectual property into the market.

TAP helped Rochon, Doll and Hamilton secure an AFRL license for the technology, create the InfiniPure entity and pursue capital.

InfiniPure’s five-year renewable licensing agreement spells out how the company will pay royalties to the Air Force and retain exclusive use of the patent for its purpose, which includes the manufacturing process and material. The company is in the early stages of prototype development and has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency, which could eventually lead to some collaborative testing.

In addition to the license agreement with AFRL, the startup also signed an agreement with the inventor from the lab to partner on additional research and development.

The impact of AFRL’s support for TAP has even wider implications for STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – education and critical workforce development issues. With a quickly aging workforce at AFRL, as many baby boomers are in a position to retire in the near future, the TAP model provides a golden opportunity to connect with a bright new crop of future scientists and engineers

Because of the InfiniPure experience, for example, Hamilton is transferring to Miami University and will change his major to a STEM discipline that includes the study of water.

For more background on how student and business teams are being assembled near AFRL locations to find new applications for AFRL technology, form companies and secure funding for ventures built around AFRL’s intellectual property, visit http://www.wpafb.af.mil/News/Article/818478/afrl-transforming-technology-education-and-the-economy

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/50/2016/08/web1_AFLogogo-4.jpg

Story courtesy of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Story courtesy of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.