The following is an English translation based on an article written by Martin Bernard and published in the November 2020 of PME Magazine.
PURIFYING INDUSTRIAL WATER
The Lausanne-based SME Integral Co. Water Solutions represents UET’s innovative solution to eliminate the use of chemical products in cooling water treatment.
Fresh water has long been considered an inexhaustible resource, but its abundance is in fact very relative.
Its depletion is already a major problem in several regions of the planet, due to, in particular, pollution, climate change, overpopulation and misuse of resources; therefore, a large part of the planet could run out of water in the years to come. This is a matter of concern also for industry.
In Switzerland, in fact, more than half of the water consumed is to heat, cool, dilute or clean industrial processes. To curb the appearance of scale, corrosion or bio-contamination, this water is also filled with toxic chemicals that can then find their way to water tables and surface waters. This was the origin of the Lonza scandal, three years ago in Valais.
BETWEEN SCALE AND CORROSION
Founded in 2018, the Integral Co. Water Solutions company, based in Lausanne, works on these two closely related issues. “The use of chemical products leads to overconsumption of water. Once treated, it is so saturated that it must regularly be replaced by clean water”, emphasizes Marco Rossati, founder of Integral Co. Water Solutions.
The engineer, trained at EPFL, has therefore created an innovative technical company called Blubalance, based on UET’s technology and know-how. It allows for manufacturers to work without adding toxic additives into their cooling water. “By not spilling chemicals to the environment, the solution drastically reduces micro-pollutants present in the discharge, in particular AOX/THMs and heavy metals”, adds Marco Rossati. It’s the first time that such a product has been made available for industry.
The device developed by UET and represented by Integral Co. Water Solutions is installed directly in parallel to the cooling system. It is based on the principle of partial-electrolysis, adjusted in real time by an algorithm. In nature, water self-regulates and eliminates its impurities. Scale, for example, is a result of this natural process, but chemical products perform contrary to this natural process.
Reversing logic, Blubalance, based on UET, was precisely designed to speed up the natural reactions. “This helps achieve a dynamic balance between scale and corrosion. Thanks to this balance, the water is not corrosive and scale does not deposit in the water network”, remarked Marco Rossati. In parallel, the partial-electrolysis also activates a biocide, produced from ions naturally present in the water. “In this way, the solution formed effectively combats against bacterial activity, and in particular legionella”, adds the CEO.
Non-use of chemical products significantly increases the concentration ratio of the cooling water and, therefore, reduces by more than 80% the quantity of wastewater sent to the drain.
Integral Co. Water Solutions also notes that this process allows an average decrease of 34% of water injection into the network. In 2019, for example, an industrialist who installed Blubalance was able to save more than 30,000 m3 of water.
The technology developed by UET, and represented by the Lausanne-based company, also gives manufacturers the possibility to recycle wastewater produced by their other production activities.
The pharmaceutical industry, for example, frequently uses the reverse osmosis technique for obtaining demineralized water (in order to make cosmetics, in particular). The minerals released during this purification are then found in great quantities in the water, which is then usually thrown away.
“Our solution makes it possible to recover this concentrate and transfer it to the cooling system”, explains Marco Rossati. “Industrial plants can thus maximize the cycles of water used in their factories.” And save money. According to the CEO, the installation of Blubalance generates significant cost reductions (around 55% to 60%) on the purchase of water and chemicals, and specialized equipment necessary for the storage of toxic additives and maintenance, but also on the energy consumed in the factory.
TWENTY MACHINES INSTALLED
The Integral Co. Water Solutions business model is also based on the follow-up carried out with its industrial customers. The long-term water treatment performance of Blubalance results in reduced, though periodic, maintenance. It includes a performance check through diagnostics on a regular basis, which includes expertise in the field of water. “Each project is unique. We therefore develop tailor-made solutions, adapted to the needs of our customers in terms of water, chemical product, energy, use and costs”, says Marco Rossati.
The Blubalance solution has been approved by the Agency for European Chemical Products, which has validated and recognized its effectiveness and its non-toxicity. Eventually, it can also be used for other applications, like industrial boilers or water management for agriculture. Since 2019, around twenty machines have been installed in Swiss companies active in watchmaking, pharma and biotechnology. “There is a real need to change habits in the field of industrial water use. The treatment methods have barely evolved during the last fifty years”, concludes the CEO of Integral Co. Water Solutions.
Today, the Lausanne company employs about twenty people in Switzerland and France, where it recently started activities. In the future, it aspires to develop in the German speaking areas of Switzerland, then in all of Europe…and beyond. From 2023, the SME will target 10% of the market share in its sector of activity, namely cooling water.