Water purification and treatment technology developed specifically for power plants, commercial buildings, hospitals and other sensitive military and civilian installations may be finding a new set of military and shipbuilding applications.

Silver Bullet Water Treatment Company, a mostly Canadian owned tech SME, with offices in Charlottetown, Ottawa, Toronto, and Denver, originally developed its innovative technology to treat water from industrial and commercial cooling towers without the need to add any hazardous chemicals.

The methodology, broadly considered to be an “advanced oxidation process,” uses simple electricity powering a UV lamp to generate hydroxyl radicals (•OH) from ambient air. The hydroxyl radicals, a safe, powerful and versatile oxidant recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), trigger various chemical reactions when introduced to untreated water which reduce microbiological growth, hold minerals in concentration until they precipitate out, prevent scale formation and suppress corrosion without the need for hazardous chemicals such as chlorine.

“This is a disruptive technology which will change our 50-year-old concepts of water treatment,” says Ashish Rampal, Silver Bullet Canada’s executive director. “It’s a green solution with no external chemicals, which doesn’t react with inorganic materials and uses itself up in organic reactions by turning into water (H2O) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), unlike chemicals such as chlorine which tend to remain in the environment as trihalomethanes and chlorites.”

Rampal could be right. Silver Bullet technology doesn’t require any external equipment or chemicals, which allows the company to rent out water treatment units without a large up-front investment and for a monthly fixed fee. A recent University of Pittsburgh study also confirmed the effectiveness of the Silver Bullet system in reducing biological growth in cooling towers and dramatically reducing total bacterial counts (HPC bacteria) in pilot-scale cooling towers.

Of course, happy clients are the true test of the systems’ effectiveness.

Silver Bullet clients include the Ottawa Airport, Sky Ridge Medical Center and the Oxford Hotel in Denver, Colorado, the Denver Museum of Natural Science and even NORAD headquarters in Wyoming where its unique self-contained military focused design provides protection against chemical attacks and is able to operate totally self-contained, just in case there’s a nuclear holocaust or some other form of catastrophic disaster.

Of course, the closed technology and unique client base also suggest a number of useful applications for controlled environments.

According to Rampal, the next real breakthrough could be as part of ballast tanks in ships, which need to be purged of all living species before the ballast water is released. “Everyone remembers the zebra mussels, those small freshwater mussels originally native to the lakes of southern Russia, which, beginning around 1988, were accidentally introduced to North America in the ballast water of ocean-going ships traversing the St. Lawrence Seaway. They’ve grown to become an invasive species and the target of federal legislation. We certainly don’t want that to happen again,” he said.

But current methods to purge tanks of living species prior to dumping ballast water are expensive and require chemicals, which must be carried separately, thus making it difficult to comply with the legislation and insure safety in a self-contained environment like a ship. The Silver Bullet methodology might provide a useful, closed solution requiring far less external storage. The company is hopeful about future contracts for Canadian shipbuilding.

Another useful application for the technology could be as a core component of disaster relief programs such as those deployed by the Canadian Armed Forces Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). DART teams are multidisciplinary military organizations designed to deploy on short notice anywhere in the world in response to situations ranging from natural disasters to complex humanitarian emergencies. They’re part of Canada’s toolkit to assist in alleviating natural disasters using techniques mirrored by other military organizations.

“A 110 volt power supply is all you need to drive the treatment system to generate water with a significant drop in microbiological contamination. On some farms we see water in animal drinking troughs better that municipal potable water in terms of microbial levels,” said Vik Khurana, president of Silver Bullet Canada.

The technology is National Sanitary Foundation (NSF) 61 certified which, although not formally a human potable rating in Canada, is certainly better than typical Canadian well water and suitable for a wide variety of non-potable uses.

According to Khurana, there has been no real advancement in water treatment technology capabilities for decades. Perhaps, that is about to change.

Chuck Black managers corporate communications for OMX

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