Marlborough company CarbonScape to trial treatment of Auckland's water

Carbonscape head of research and development Greg Conner shows parts of a microwave chamber to MPs Chris Bishop, ...

Carbonscape head of research and development Greg Conner shows parts of a microwave chamber to MPs Chris Bishop, Jonathan Young and Sarah Dowie, who visited Marlborough earlier this month.

Blenheim science and tech company CarbonScape has the chance to prove it can purify Auckland's water supply using activated carbon, its managing director says. 

Tim Langley said the carbon refiner and manufacturer was embarking on a $973,000 trial project with government funder Callaghan Innovation to optimise activated carbon to treat Auckland's water. 

Fossil fuels were currently imported from Australia to treat the city's water supply.

"If we can make it here we can make it more economical because we can make it so fast," Langley said. 

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There were many carbon producers around the world, but CarbonScape had a special microwave process of creating the carbon which meant the company could create carbons faster than its competitors, Langley said. 

Other manufacturers took hours to make carbon. 

"We make it in two steps, in 18 minutes," Langley said. 

Activated carbon could be used to purify water because it was so porous, Langley said. A gram of activated carbon had a surface area of 1200 square metres. 

Any water flowing over it would have its impurities filtered out, Langley said. 

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There were huge opportunities for CarbonScape's product worldwide. 

CarbonScape initially hoped to supply the New Zealand steel industry with a carbon to turn iron into steel, Langley said. 

However, the steel industry around the world was in crisis, so the company was happy to be exploring possibilities in water treatment. 

CarbonScape created carbons from sawdust, rather than fossils, ending up with a more sustainable product. 

The water project would last 17 months in total, and the company was almost four months into it, Langley said.

"We're tailoring it to the issue that Auckland's dealing with," he said. 

CarbonScape would be working with Watercare Service's laboratories throughout the trial, he said. 

After the trial, CarbonScape hoped to enter supply agreements with water suppliers around the country. Being able to treat Auckland's water supply would open the door to a lot of other opportunities. 

Langley said that whatever happened, the research side of the operation would remain in Marlborough. 

The company hoped to receive a Callaghan Innovation grant for 40 per cent of the total costs of the trial. 

To unlock the funding CarbonScape needed to raise $500,000 from their shareholders, and had reached more than $200,000 in the first five days.

They were "quietly confident" they would reach their target by the end of the week, Langley said. ​

The company was also interested in working with graphene, which was discovered in 2008 and was the strongest known product and extremely malleable, as well as being 200 times more conductive than copper. 

Langley said graphene, the thickness of cling film, was strong enough to hold an elephant. 

"We are talking seriously strong," he said. 

The product was made out of graphite, which CarbonScape manufactured. 

"The race is on to produce graphene on a commercial scale." 

 - The Marlborough Express


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