As demand for clean water soars in arid regions around the world, desalination – the process of converting salt water into fresh water – is becoming an increasingly attractive solution.
Dixie State University alumnus Hunter Manz has devised a novel solution to the problem of the current high cost and inefficiency of industrial desalination plants. He founded Eden Technologies Inc., along with co-founder, Zachary Manweiler, in April 2020.
With only the schematics for a prototype, Manz and Manweiler raised a $100,000 pre-seed round in 2021 from local investors. With these funds, the team created its first reverse osmosis centrifuge model, a proof-of-concept smaller than the final planned size and configuration it intends to market for desalination plants at scale. industrial.
Recently, Eden Tech raised over $750,000 in seed funding from Utah-based investors (whose names are not disclosed). The company launched its website today, March 23, 2022.
TechBuzz caught up with Manz and Manweiler to learn more about their background and interest in desalination technology. An engineering student at DSU, Manz used the tools available in his engineering program and benefited from mentors to refine his idea into a viable approach to improving current desalination technology. “I was good at coming up with ideas,” Manz says. “But I needed to find a more experienced engineer who could bring my ideas together and create a working prototype.”
Manz was introduced to Zachary Manweiler, a mechanical engineer and coordinator of DSU’s Atwood Innovation Plaza makerspace, the largest makerspace of its kind in Utah, previously used as an elementary school at the far end west of the DSU campus. With Atwood providing a well-equipped workspace and home for the new startup, Manz and Manweiler began designing a desalination prototype.
“Only 50% of the seawater taken in by factories becomes fresh water, the rest becomes concentrated seawater, which is treated as waste,” explains Manweiler, co-founder and CTO of Eden Tech. Their creation is a reverse osmosis centrifuge, a machine designed to improve the efficiency and net production of fresh water from existing desalination plants.
“Desalination is a very energy-intensive process,” says Manz. “And at the same time, building desalination plans requires a lot of capital – that’s why you don’t see it so much around the world. It’s so expensive!”
“While desalination appears to be a perfect solution to solving the water crisis in arid regions near salt water bodies, it is often a financially irrational endeavor,” Manz says. “The inefficiencies associated with the conversion of seawater into freshwater are a real obstacle to the massive implementation of desalination. However, our technology integrates directly into existing plant infrastructure and takes the waste and turns it into more fresh water.
Manz and Manweiler claim that their reverse osmosis centrifuge technology enables at least a 30% gain in freshwater production in existing plants, with a 15% increase in recovery, using pre-existing desalination equipment but with the addition of their centrifugation technology. Although seemingly modest, this efficiency increase is a game-changer for desalination plant operating cost savings. A 30% improvement in production makes large-scale investments in desalination plants much more attractive to investors, governments and/or large corporations. Eden discusses system integration with US desalination plants “With the addition of our centrifuge, the profitability of these plants can be doubled,” says Manz.
Regarding the startup’s go-to-market strategy, Eden Tech continues to refine its technology to make it attractive for large-scale desalination plants in the Middle East, which is the most mature market for such technology.
“Our strategy is to create good relationships with entities in the Middle East, mainly where the demand for fresh water is already the highest and where large-scale desalination is already well established,” says Manz.
Manz and Manweiler believe that the demand for desalination technologies will increase in the coming years. “Population growth and climate change combine to pose significant challenges for water management,” Manz says. “Desalination will only become a better solution, especially as it is carried out more efficiently.”
Manz and Manweiler continue to refine the technology and discuss additional funding with investors. By the end of this year, they estimate to have the first salable machine available for applications involving brackish water.
Ultimately, Manz and Manweiler aim to implement their systems in large desalination plants, but that process they say will take three to five years. “For our next round of funding, we will further develop the seawater machine which requires more advanced engineering techniques,” Manweiler says. “It will take time and more money to achieve the design goals, but we are making good progress on the prototypes of our commercial seawater units.”