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OHSU studying new purification process that could make drinking water safer

New technology potentially offers more environmentally sustainable approach than filtration
Oregon Health & Science University has received funding to perfect a water purification process that removes chemicals and pathogens, making drinking water cleaner and safer. The grant to fund this research was provided by the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI).

Puralytics, a Beaverton-based start up company, currently is producing a device that uses ultraviolet light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and photocatalyst-coated fiber to remove organic compounds, heavy metals and pathogens from water. This is a more environmentally sustainable approach than filtration because no concentrated waste is captured that later requires disposal.

Puralytics hopes to further improve the process through the ONAMI-funded collaboration with OHSU.  The work will be performed in the laboratory of Paul Tratnyek, Ph.D., professor in the OHSU Division of Environmental and Biomolecular Systems.

“This is a great opportunity to contribute to public health by improving the quality of drinking water,” Tratnyek says.

Tratnyek has extensive experience with water treatment technology. His research focuses on the chemical processes involved in contaminant degradation in a variety of environments. His area of expertise is ideally suited for the analytic needs of this project.

“We hope to find a better light-activated catalyst that will eliminate even more contaminants," Tratnyek says. “The project will focus mainly on optimization of the product Puralytics calls the ‘Shield 500,’ which is intended for small to medium flows, such as the flows from private drinking water supply wells.”

Wells are a common source of drinking water in rural areas and have a greater risk of chemical and biological contamination.  Biological risks include Cryptosporidium, a parasite that spreads through contaminated water and is one of the most common waterborne diseases worldwide. The purification process would sterilize the water, making it safer to drink.   

Tratnyek and his colleagues will test a wide range of contaminants with the ‘Shield 500’ to determine its effectiveness and identify ways to make it more efficient. If successful, the device will be used to treat wastewater, grey water and other drinking water sources.  


Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) is the first of several "Signature Research Centers" created by the Oregon Innovation Council to cultivate Oregon-based research and commercialization in strategic economic sectors. ONAMI promotes the nanoscience and microtechnology sectors in Oregon by funding applied research and other cooperative ventures at universities and businesses in Oregon.

About Puralytics
Puralytics is an early stage company in Beaverton, Oregon, which is developing photochemical water purification products designed for the emerging contaminants such as petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals, and also eliminate heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury, and provide disinfection of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.  Their products set new standards for sustainability and environmental protection.  Puralytics was chosen by The Artemis Project as a 2009 Top 50 Global Water Technology Company competition winner, and selected as a finalist in the 2010 ImagineH2O Prize, and a semifinalist in the 2010 CleanTech Open.

About OHSU     
Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only health and research university, and Oregon’s only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.


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