Top 200

Carnegie Mellon University


  • Energy and Environment, Health

  • Global Programs

  • ---

  • Public charity

  • $1,428,661,731 (2015)

  • 13,520

Executive Summary

Transformative Global Water Purification: Water contamination by chemicals and microbes is a global challenge to a critical need of humans and wildlife: clean water. We have developed a safe way to purify and disinfect water that is easy to use at any scale, by almost anyone, anywhere. It solves numerous water challenges, including the toughest-ridding effluents of most harmful micropollutants. Our solutions are based on TAML activators, miniature enzyme replicas that radically outperform Nature's detoxifying enzymes. Coming from decades of meticulous basic and applied, multidisciplinary, international research led by Terry Collins, TAML systems promise the biggest advance in water purification since the early 20th Century introduction of ozone for drinking water. With new TAML improvements (2015-16), TAML processes can be game changers for health and the environment, delivering purified water at ca. 10% the operating cost of ozone, the cheapest existing micropollutant removal process that only the richest jurisdictions can afford.

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The Problem

Our team is committed to removing micropollutants (MPs) from water globally-and much more. A micropollutant is any substance present at low concentrations in the environment that has undesired effects. MP contamination is the most technically difficult water predicament today-any widely viable solution will solve numerous easier problems including disinfection while also advancing water purification in weakly regulated jurisdictions. Endocrine disruption underlies most low dose adverse effects: Endocrine disruptors (EDs) are chemicals that may interfere with the body's endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in humans and wildlife (US NIEHS). Even after wastewater passes through modern municipal plants, MPs remain-hormones, drugs, pesticides, and other everyday everywhere chemicals. Some harm aquatic life. Switzerland has regulated a 50% reduction in municipal releases of MPs, costing $1 B over ten years. The EU wants to follow, but cannot afford the capital and operating costs for end of plant municipal ozone treatment (Opex 700 M/yr), the cheapest workable technology. Thus, while MPs in water are wearing down life everywhere, only the super rich can afford existing solutions. We have an answer for everyone-a technically effective solution that safely reduces costs and complexity to manageable levels. Together, MacArthur and our team would eliminate ozone or activated carbon implementation barriers and gift TAML water purification to life by subsidizing demonstration plants, optimizing effectiveness locally and scrutinizing safety serially, allowing water companies to comply with MP removal ideals. We would help restore the aquatic environment and build future harmony with our chemically complex cultures.

Proposed Solution

New TAMLs promise the world effective, affordable, versatile, easy to use, painstakingly toxicity tested solutions for micropollutants and other public health challenges. Over decades, IGS scientists iteratively designed and perfected TAML catalysts to replicate key approaches our own bodies take to kill pathogens and detoxify chemicals to give society cheap alternatives to chlorine and its toxic disinfection byproducts. We have succeeded. Peroxide activating TAMLs are 1/100th the size of the enzymes they replicate and radically outperform. Like natural enzymes, new TAMLs degrade in use and actually feature a designed in kill switch. Comprised exclusively of the elements that Nature uses most to build us, new TAMLs come free of lead like problems and fluorine like concerns-a wickedly difficult design achievement. New TAMLs represent a paradigm shift, a platform technology for large scale applications, including, but not limited to, removing micropollutants from municipal, industrial, ground and recycled water, purifying drinking water (after further safety analyses) involving mating new TAMLs with Smart Catalytic Membrane inventions, potent disinfection (proven for anthrax bacterial spore surrogates, the hardest pathogens to kill), ballast water treatment, and cleaning all over, including amazing to view, commercialized mold removal from residential housing at 10% the contractor cost of the cheapest alternative. We routinely characterize catalytic performances the likes of which have never been seen in any branch of chemistry. One kilogram of our best new TAML will treat 15,000-50,000 tonnes of municipal wastewater to remove most MPs in minutes with fish safe peroxide concentrations, heralding a new area of applications rich green science: oxidation catalysis under ultra dilute conditions.

Evidence of Effectiveness

TAML activators were achieved (1995) as peroxidase enzyme mimics that outperform peroxidases following fifteen years of seminal iterative design. Then it took two decades to consolidate our water purification lifework, i.e. to understand structure activity relationships in catalyst design and mechanisms, capture IP, produce prototype commercial quantities, achieve prototype EPA registration, begin establishing marketplace powers, optimize TAMLs for water challenges, assess full scale water treatment costs, collaborate with 20+ ED researchers to design an endocrine disruption assay system , beta test TAMLs in the resulting Tiered Protocol for Endocrine Disruption (TiPED), and document unprecedented degradation performances for pathogens and waterborne pollutants in high profile publications. Prof. Rak Kanda summarized industry and otherwise funded old TAML London wastewater studies (2012-14): Compared with ozone plants, old TAML plants are estimated 3-5 times lower in operating costs, significantly lower in capital costs and 2-3 times lower in energy use. The Brunel study used old TAML catalysts which are now superseded by new TAMLs. Cheaper new TAMLs (2015-16) are comprised exclusively of biochemically common elements, deliver optimal performance at ideal water treatment pH (7-8) [Video Pitch contains new TAML vs. old TAML comparative performance data], and feature controllable non persistence. In one TAML safety study, uterotropic and toxicity assays on pre pubertal mice drinking new TAML/peroxide treated estrogen laced water clearly establish no toxicity and 100% estrogenic neutralization. Multiple old TAML fish studies show no developmental or adult toxicity-new TAMLs will be tested. Studies of high profile MPs indicate that scaled municipal wastewater processes will reduce micropollutant burdens by ca. 90% at 1/10th ozone's OPEX with substantially lower capital and energy costs.

Previous Performance

The field of catalysis under ultra dilute conditions that we have created by honoring the first four sustainability performances-technical, cost, environment, health-is a green science masterwork. The Collins design protocol and resulting TAMLs are highly awarded. Today, undeniable endocrine disruption is becoming a household term, significantly because of the work and stamina of our highly awarded ED team. Exacting TAML/peroxide MP degradation science is published in 19 journals including Science-much more is heading to the press. In 2014, Brunel came 4th of 128 EU proposals for 4 M for EU piloting-three were funded-and is in consideration for 8 M (the passage of this proposal has spotlighted the TAML disruptive threat). The MP destructive performance is breathtaking. For example, the beta blocker drug, Propranolol, is one of the harder MPs to remove from London wastewater where it is present in low parts per billion (ppb). New TAML (60 ppb, equating with one catalyst kilogram treating 16,650 tonnes of water) with peroxide (11 ppm, fish safe) takes Propranolol (16 ppb) to non detect (<0.2 ppb) in under five minutes [Video Pitch]-more easily oxidized MPs disappear faster. By comparison, the best old TAML process, projected already to be 3-5 times cheaper than ozone, requires 45 minutes to take Propranolol to non detect. New TAMLs will solve most micropollutant issues of concern (ca. 90%), but not all.For example, the molluscicide and UK water hellion, metaldehyde, is just out of reach. Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are too resistant. Ongoing catalyst design should vanquish metaldehyde and perhaps even PFCs.

The Team

Team Purpose

Purifying water to protect wildlife and people meets the highest ambitions of the participating institutions to create new fields and solve world problems. CMU's Institute for Green Science (IGS) designed TAML catalysts so that hydrogen peroxide could eventually replace chlorine in water treatment to avoid cancer associated chlorinated disinfection byproducts. Since 2003, the inspirational sustainability mission of also purifying water of dangerous traces of chemical contaminants has melded our six branch, international team of 20+ investigators (below). We have triumphed on very little money by proving the transformative potential of new TAML based water purification. With MacArthur beside us, our tried and true team would make TAML Water Purification a global seal, featuring state of the art catalyst design mated to scientific understanding of how to protect people and wildlife everywhere from micropollutants and numerous other water hazards, with a cheap, simple to deploy, disruptive, effective solution. It's time to share this gift.

Team Structure

CMU will hold full legal, budgetary and governing authority over all project aspects. Terry Collins will lead our six branch family. CMU's IGS will map pharmaceutical, pesticide and other micropollutant degradations, chemically assaying treated waters, and manage collaborations, catalyst production, distribution, regulatory and licensing affairs, African training, non EU piloting and adoption. Rak Kanda (Brunel U) will lead the initial EU six industrial partners and four academics in fully planned trials and adoptions prioritizing four countries. Julie Jones (Advancing Green Chemistry, AGC) will coordinate the nine leading endocrine disruption researchers in biological safety analyses on TAMLs and diverse purified effluents. James Wright (U Auckland) will attach new TAMLs to Smart Catalytic Membranes for superior drinking water purification. Chimezie Anyakora (U Lagos and the independent Centre for Applied Research on Separation Science, CAROss) will coordinate pan African professorial and student education at international team universities to assess and initiate African deployment. Douglas Fischer (Environmental Health Sciences, EHS) will publish a TAML related water newsfeed. Our team takes pride in impeccable scientific standards and devotion to the future good. Partnership with MacArthur will consolidate perfection by allowing cutting edge scientific scrutiny to guide real world adoption. If we attain semi finalist status, we will form a governing board in consultation with MacArthur.

Past Funders

  1. Richard King Mellon Foundation
  2. The Heinz Endowments
  3. Hillman Family Foundations
  4. The David Tepper Charitable Foundation, Inc.
  5. McCune Foundation
  6. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  7. Jack Buncher Foundation
  8. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
  9. Swartz Foundation Trust
  10. Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

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