January 14th, 2014 by Gwen Green
Funding through EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research program is helping Little Rock-based Synanomet LLC develop a nanomaterial-based process for purifying phosphorus-contaminated waters. Led by chief scientific officer Dr. Tito Viswanathan, Synanomet has exclusive license for the manufacture and use of patent-pending technologies from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Assisted by the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, the company won a $300,000 SBIR Phase II award from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013.
Synanomet successfully completed performance on its 2012 Phase I award from the agency to position itself for the highly competitive Phase II award. Of the initial 425 applicants for Phase I, 25 were funded for Phase I and only seven were selected for Phase II funding.
Synanomet has been a client of the Arkansas SBTDC since 2010. “I attended the SBIR/STTR Phase I Proposal Writing Workshop sponsored by the ASBTDC, which helped me with the writing of our Phase I proposal,” said Viswanathan. As the Synanomet team developed the commercialization plan for its Phase II application, they were able to take advantage of the ASBTDC’s market research services.
“Rebecca Norman worked with our team on short notice to provide invaluable data on market potential and potential partners that were included in the proposal,” Viswanathan said.
Previously, the ASBTDC helped Synanomet with the development of its successful Technology Development Program application for the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority, for which the team received $25,000 to support ongoing research during the gap between SBIR Phase I and II. In addition, Viswananathan was one of 27 entrepreneurs to participate in ASBTDC’s 2012 mentoring program for innovation-based ventures through its Federal and State Technology (FAST) program.
Phosphorus remediation is a difficult and costly environmental problem. Synanomet’s materials will be first applied to purify agricultural runoff and water treatment plants.
“The overwhelming market for the commercial application of the nanotechnology is in the municipal arena – wastewater treatment plants and stormwater collection systems,” said Viswanathan. “Commercial applications of the nanocomposites will include not only phosphorus removal but also the potential removal of heavy metals such as chromium, arsenic and selenium. An additional use will be increased odor control for wastewater treatment plants and agricultural farming operations.” Synanomet’s materials also extend to purification of water in aquariums and swimming pools.
By 2018, Synanomet expects to have an expanded facility for nanocomposite production in the Little Rock area. Since the phosphorus contamination issue is nationwide, the composites could be used throughout the U.S., including the Chesapeake Bay area where the problem is severe.
Other potential applications of Synanomet’s materials extend to electrodes for batteries and fuel cells, industrial catalysts, anti-static applications, composite reinforcement, and electromagnetic interference shielding.
For more information about Synanomet’s SBIR-funded research, see the company’s EPA SBIR Phase II project description.