Interview: Nanobubble Technology in Water & Wastewater Applications

What is Nanobubble Technology?

Nick: Let me tell you a bit about Moleaer as it relates to nanobubble technology. We did not invent nanobubbles, they are actually readily found in nature and there are other ways to make nanobubbles.

What we do is manufacture industrial scale nanobubble systems, and these systems are used by basically a wide range of industries where water is critical in their process. In industrial wastewater and municipal wastewater treatment it basically can do one of two things.

Either increase productivity, so to improve the output of whatever it is they have, which in wastewater is to treat whatever wastewater in a given plant or operating process.

Or to solve a specific problem more responsibly and more sustainably. That could be typically associated with trying to replace chemicals with nanobubbles. And the way we are able to do that is through what we call 100 nanometer size nanobubbles. 100 nanometers put into perspective is 500 times smaller than a grain of salt.

At 100 nanometers, bubbles behave completely differently than all of the bubbles that we are familiar with. Let me start with what other bubbles do and why they are relevant, particularly in wastewater treatment. So, it’s estimated that 1.5 to 2% of the Earth’s energy goes towards aerating wastewater. Aeration is the idea of ā€‹ā€‹putting air into water to try to make it aerobic.

Any time you can make water aerobic it’s typically a good thing. In wastewater you’re doing to make the bacteria the good biology, breakdown organics and treat the pollutants in the wastewater treatment system before you discharge that water to its intended purpose.

Let’s go to nanobubbles.

When we transfer air into water, we do two things: we dissolve the oxygen, incredibly efficient, 30 times more efficient than conventional systems. In doing so we form a 100 size nanometer bubble, and this bubble is so small that it lacks the buoyancy to overcome the other forces in water to rise to the surface and pop. So now you have a gas nanoparticle suspended, it is typically air oxygen, that can participate in different physical, chemical, biological reactions.

A little bit in terms of the properties of the bubbles: they are what we call electrochemically active, meaning they have a surface charge; they have a very high internal pressure because of their size. When that bubble ruptures, it forms an oxidant because of the energy it’s releasing.

When the bubble is intact it reduces the surface tension of the water and can bond to other particulates, acting like a natural coagulant, improving separation processes. So now you can start to use the physical properties of these bubbles to improve different types of processes. And in wastewater, what we really try focus on is offering nanobubbles as a pretreatment, where the oxidation potential of the bubble and ability to provide coagulant and bond particulates in the water helps improve existing treatment processes, so that customers can treat more wastewater with either less energy or with the footprint that they have.

What Does Nanobubble Equipment Look Like?

Nick: So what makes Moleaer’s nanobubble technology, what we call the nanobubble generator, unique, is really three things.

Number one, it is scalable, and what we mean by that is that we can apply our technology into any liquid, for the sake of the conversation, water and wastewater flow rate. We’ve done design systems that are smaller than a gallon a minute, we currently have systems that are 44 hundred gallons a minute, which is very large in terms of flow rates per day. So that scalability allows us to apply our patented technology into pretty much any pump-based process.

Secondly, it is incredibly versatile. It can treat almost any liquid with almost any gas. Now, in a number of other industrial processes, which have nothing to do with water and wastewater, we may treat things like acids or bases using different gases, air oxygen, hydrogen, methane, or CO2. But in water and wastewater applications, we’re typically putting air oxygen into water and wastewater, and most of the time it’s not pretreated. Meaning you don’t have to do much to the water or wastewater before it comes into our technology, and we introduce the gas.

So, in that respect, in wastewater, that versatility of air oxygen or ozone can all be injected incredibly efficiently so it can be cost effective to use those gases. Into water or wastewater that hasn’t really been pretreated, which is always a big expense, it provides an enormous opportunity for customers to use it cost effectively.

And third is the actual cost of the product itself relative to the value we create is fairly attractive. So, we end up with this very scalable, versatile, cost-effective technology, so customers can use nanobubbles and gases in their water and wastewater technologies.

Can You Provide Any Examples?

Nick: We’ve moved over a thousand gallons a minute, which is over a million gallons per day of treatment, into a wastewater treatment plant and installed it and had it running in less than half a day.

The single largest project we’ve ever done is a project within Los Angeles County. It was a storm water channel project, so it’s not exactly a wastewater treatment plant but it falls under the same sort of category. We over 60 million gallons a day of nanobubble treatment in increments.

The ability to employ our technology quickly, to address emergency issues or for customers who want to just trial it or for customers who just want to install it and not worry about the installation balance of plant work that often goes along with capital equipment.

We manipulate fluid flow. We control the way the gas is introduced, we control how the liquid flows in certain geometries. So, a combination of proprietary materials and certain geometries allows us to control how the fluids flow through the core technology.

What Industries Does this Technology Serve?

Nick: We work across almost a 100% of how water is used. Approximately 70% of water goes to agriculture, about 20% to industry, and about 10% goes to municipal, I believe. We actually play across 100% of it. Our largest opportunity is agriculture, and so our biggest install base today is in irrigation, where farmers use our water to improve water quality and ultimately improve crop reduction.

So, we help farmers grow food with less water. Everything we’re doing is trying to make industry municipalities achieve their objectives with less water.

The other 20% related to the broader industry, we do everything from fish farming and food washing, all the way to industrial wastewater. Industrial wastewater is a big market for us, particularly food and beverage.

And of course, we play in municipal, which we only play in wastewater. What we do in food and beverage and municipal wastewater is the same. What our customers are doing is adding nanobubbles almost like a pretreatment.

The bubbles are optimizing these treatment plants, increasing the productivity of these treatment plants, almost like adding some sort of chemical to improve the performance of the treatment.

Any Current Developments & Research for this technology?

Within every one of our industries we are focused on developing new applications and use cases. In wastewater, we’re looking at how nanobubbles improve dissolved flotation systems. We can enhance the flotations or enhance some of the chemicals that are involved in some of that process without affecting the flotation.

Any Limitations or Improvements of this Technology?

The way we operate in that long term thinking, is that we have two disciplines: one of them is how you produce nanobubbles and then what you do with nanobubbles.

We’re looking at how we produce nanobbubles without the pump, in some applications the pump can be a limiting factor because of space, it could be a limiting factor because of the nature of the size of the body of water. How do we produce pumpless nanobubble systems? We’re going to be doing a lot of field testing.

Another aspect of the research is the nanobubbles themselves. So, if we focus specifically on water and wastewater, we have very active research and development on disinfection, advanced oxidation, and fractionation.

How do you get more using less water? What we really want to do is try to optimize and lower the cost of treatment across a wide range of industrial municipal treatment plants. Don’t build more treatment plants, use technology to improve the efficiency of your existing plant. That’s what we’re trying to help solve.

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