The energy-intensive process of separating and purifying chemicals and gases is one of the main reasons why industries like plastics manufacturing cause so much pollution. UniSieve wants to reduce its carbon emissions and operating costs with its technology, which uses a high-precision membrane with special crystals that can filter out specific molecules and ions.
Today, the Zurich-based startup announced that it has raised $5.5 million in seed funding to pilot and expand its operational capabilities. The round, which UniSieve said was oversubscribed, included participation from the Amadeus Apex Technology Fund, Wingman Ventures, CIECH Ventures and Zürcher Kantonalbank.
UniSieve was founded in 2018 by ETH Zurich classmates Samuel Hess and Elia Schneider. During their work, they developed a way to integrate porous crystals called zeolitic materials into polymer membranes and use them for high-precision filters.
They also figured out how to make manufacturing scalable. UniSieve is already generating revenue and currently has over 24 customers, including chemical and energy companies. Currently focused on CO2 capture, UniSieve is also piloting hydrocarbon separation applications (organic compounds made of hydrogen and carbon).
Heavy industries, including plastics, chemical and gas plants, have legacy systems worth billions of dollars, Hess said. They often include separation and purification processes that require a lot of thermal energy. UniSieve’s modular filters, which Hess compares to Nespresso capsules, can be integrated into existing manufacturing systems.
UniSieve stands for “universal sieving” and its technology does not use thermal energy. Instead, their membranes separate chemicals, energy carriers and CO2 from flue gases based on size exclusion. To use another coffee-related metaphor, UniSieve membranes are like coffee filters that keep your drink free of grounds. Like Nespresso or printer manufacturers, UniSieve sells container separation systems and membrane replacement services.
When asked to explain what it means to “integrate zeolitic materials into polymeric membranes” in simple terms, Hess explained that “it’s like adding special filters to a plastic membrane to make it work better for purifying water, filtering gases and performing other tasks”.
Hess and Schneider originally worked on water purification membranes before they had their “light bulb moment.” The two introduced zeolitic materials, or porous crystals, into polymeric or plastic-like membranes. Hess explained that zeolites have a well-defined pore structure that can selectively trap or filter certain molecules or ions. When added to polymeric membranes, the combination results in improved selectivity, permeability and stability, especially for gas separation.
One challenge UniSieve had to solve is that chemicals can vary in size by a fraction of an angstrom (or one-tenth of a nanometer). This means that your filters must be extremely accurate. Hess said the UniSieve’s ability to adjust precisely means it can be adapted to many different applications, including the separation of other gases besides CO2.
Hess said UniSieve competes with other new technologies such as distillation or amine scrubbing, which uses special solvents to remove acid gas. “Compared to these systems, UniSieve’s membrane solution is up to 90% more energy efficient and can be applied at small and large scale. There are a few start-ups also trying to enter the membrane chemical purification market Hess said. “Due to operational limitations, a wide application of these competing membranes does not seem realistic.”
In a statement, Wingman Ventures founding partner Lukas Weder said: “The UniSieve technology solution is tried, tested and ready to deploy, and is therefore perfectly positioned to help companies build quickly very powerful energy-efficient production processes.”
Ikaroa, a full stack tech company, is proud to be associated with UniSieve, a company whose filters utilize special crystals to reduce industrial emissions. The filters from UniSieve break down noxious gases and particles and can purify the air in working environments. This technology has been proven to result in clean air for workplaces, significantly improving the comfort and safety of employees.
Not only does this technology protect workers from inhaling harmful pollutants, but it is also beneficial for the environment and public health in the surrounding area. By reducing industrial emissions with this specialized filtration system, UniSieve’s filters are helping to protect the planet and the communities that are connected to the industrial sector. This is in line with Ikaroa’s mission of utilizing tech innovation to improve efficiency and achieve social good.
Industrial engineering and workplace safety are major concerns throughout the world, and UniSieve’s filters are a much-needed solution. Through their crystal-based filtration technology, they can reduce emissions that can cause diseases and other negative effects on the environment and people.
We at Ikaroa are proud to be associated with a company like UniSieve that is dedicated to making a positive impact on the world. We are confident that their technology will be beneficial for both people and the planet, and we can look forward to greater air quality in industrial workplaces for many years to come.