Oxyle's technology uses the movement of water to remove contaminants

UNESCO calls water pollution one of the main challenges facing societieswith 2 million tonnes of sewage entering the world’s waters every day. Oxyle wants to help solve the crisis with a new wastewater treatment that removes micropollutants. The Zurich-based startup announced today $3 million in pre-funding that it will use to bring its technology to market. The round was led by Wingman Ventures with participation from SOSV, Better Ventures and another.vc.

The new capital brings Oxyle’s total funds raised to date to $7.4 million since its founding in 2020. The startup’s clients include companies in the pesticide, chemical, textile pigment, electronics and pharmaceutical sectors, which are governed by strict exemption limits from responsibility.

Oxyle’s wastewater treatment was developed five years ago by co-founder and CEO Dr. Fajer Mushtaq during her doctoral research at ETH Zurich. While earning his master’s degree, Dr. Mushtaq worked with synthetic chemicals to develop new nanomaterials for biomedical applications. This resulted in wastewater containing toxic chemicals that required special treatment and disposal methods. Because there was no effective way to remove the chemicals, the wastewater had to be incinerated.

“To me, this way of handling water was not only expensive, dangerous and very unsustainable, but it also completely got rid of one of our most precious resources,” Dr Mushtaq said. “The more I researched this topic, the more I learned about the enormous scale on which incineration is practiced by small and large international companies.”

She decided to focus her doctoral research on the development of new catalysts for the removal of micropollutants. Dr. Mushtaq then worked with co-founder and CTO Dr. Silvan Staufert to integrate Oxyle’s water treatment solution into a scalable technology platform. Since then, Oxyle has completed paid pilots with industrial and municipal customers and grown its team to 17 people.

The Oxil team

The Oxil team

Oxyle wastewater treatment removes micropollutants including PFAS (chemicals found in products such as cleaning solutions, waterproof fabrics and non-stick cookware), pharmaceuticals, hormones and pesticides. It includes a nanoporous catalyst (a material with a large surface area that absorbs energy) developed by Dr. Mushtaq. When the nanoporous catalyst is activated by water movements such as bubbling or vibration, it creates a chemical reaction. The chemical reaction generates oxidative radicals that break down organic pollutants into carbon, fluorides and other harmless minerals.

Oxyle uses modular reactors to implement its technologies. For companies that must comply with discharge regulations, Oxyle also offers an analytical platform for real-time monitoring of micropollutants linked through its reactors.

The startup continues to conduct paid on-site pilots with customers to get feedback on its technology. He has worked on projects with agrochemical companies whose production processes result in high levels of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. This wastewater is normally sent for incineration, but Dr Mushtaq said they were able to remove more than 95% of the compounds using Oxyle’s technology. The startup has also completed environmental remediation projects with industrial clients to reduce contaminants, including PFAS, in groundwater to below the detection limit.

Other wastewater solutions include activated carbon technology (to absorb pollutants) and membrane filtration technology (to filter pollutants), which are widely used around the world for wastewater treatment. But Dr Mushtaq said the contaminants still remain on the activated carbon used or in the concentrated water left over from the filtration process. These technologies also lead to high operating costs, as the activated carbon or membranes must be replaced.

The advantage of Oxyle is that it breaks down micropollutants without producing secondary waste. Its nanoporous catalyst is long-lasting and fully recyclable, added Dr Mushtaq. But Oxyle sees filtration technologies as partners, not competitors, because the highly concentrated wastewater they leave behind can be treated using Oxyle’s methods.

The startup is expanding its technology platform to cover more use cases, including flow-through systems (or artificial water channels), ultra-compact systems such as those used in laboratories, large-scale use cases such as municipal wastewater, and low-cost solutions for developing economies . Oxyle also works with research and development companies and institutes to improve the speed and cost effectiveness of its pollutant analysis system.

In a statement, Wingman Ventures co-founder Alex Stökl said: “Our freshwater resources are depleting at an alarming rate and toxic micropollutants in water are causing serious damage to our health and environment. The new regulations will require companies to act. But beyond that, we must use sustainable technologies to protect our precious water resources for us and our future generations. We are proud to support Oxyle in their journey to address our global water challenge to give everyone access to clean water.”

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