A few ferrates could change the world

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Friday, July 1, 2011

In the not too distant future, a water treatment module carried in the bed of a pickup truck could be the best and cheapest water purification system on the planet. For just $30, it would purify a million gallons of polluted water. Luke Daly, founder of Ferrate Treatment Technologies in Orlando, FL, has taken a chemical compound discovered almost 300 years ago, and invented a technology that could be critical to global wellbeing in the 21st century.

Ferrates are iron-based compounds that have been called “the most powerful oxidants in nature.” They destroy bacteria and viruses, attack residual drugs, and attract other chemicals, including dissolved metals. The treated water contains no residual chlorine and exceeds today’s water quality standards. Although more than 450 scientific papers have been written discussing the benefits of ferrates, Daly was the first to design a practical, cost-effective technology that could potentially improve the health and living conditions of billions of people.

The sticking point, according to Daly, has been the high cost of manufacturing and commercialization. Even well-capitalized firms have failed to find a solution. The problem stems from the highly reactive and unstable nature of ferrates, which makes them difficult to store and transport, and ultimately too expensive for practical use on a broad scale.

Daly’s firm attacked the problem by designing a portable treatment module that could manufacture the ferrates on site. By eliminating storage and transport, it was able to reduce overall costs by 90 percent. It took more than nine years of trial and error, redesign, testing, permitting, and jumping through government hoops before the technology was perfected and the company was authorized to sell drinking water to the public.

The Wall Street Journal has recognized Ferrate Treatment Technologies as one of the “Best and Brightest” new companies, Forbes magazine named it a “Technology Pioneer,” and a recent write up in The Economist gave it a favorable nod. The global demand for clean drinking water will be critical in the coming decades. This inexpensive, portable, and environmentally friendly technology is well on its way to helping the world meet one of its most basic challenges.

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Linda is responsible for the PERC web sites, media relations, the national journalism conference, and the media fellows program. She is author of Forest Fires, part of a series of  environmental education books for high school students. She also wrote and produced Square One, a newsletter that introduced grassroots environmentalists to market...
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