Hydro-lite sheds a new light on water purification technology

By Daniel Hernandez

For WIsBusiness.com

What if there was a way to gain access to clean water wherever you stood on the planet?

Inaccessibility to clean drinking water is one of the leading causes of mortality across the globe. The Milwaukee company Hydro-lite is introducing an innovative way to purify water without the use of filters, chemicals or batteries.

Company founder Eric James was working in Zimbabwe as a humanitarian aid worker during a cholera epidemic when he came up with the idea for the product.

Hydro-lite is a low-maintenance device that uses a hand-powered electrical source and ultraviolet light to purify water from dangerous microorganisms that cause illness including bacteria, viruses and protozoa. It is intended to be used in disaster and emergency situations where access to clean water can be severely limited.

What separates James’s product from filter-based water purification systems is its use of UV light to purify the water. There are three types of UV light: A, B and C. UV-A and UV-B are often listed on sunscreen bottles. This is because the ozone layer blocks all UV-C rays from reaching the Earth and leaving it an unnecessary worry unlike UV-A and many UV-B rays.

Although the least penetrative of the atmosphere, UVC is the strongest of all the UV lights because its light rays are highly concentrated energy waves. These waves act as a germicide and can eliminate viruses that may be present in water which is something carbon filtration systems can’t do.

The product works by using a winding mechanism that powers the UV-C bulb. After about a minute of constant light, up to one liter of water will have been purified of all bacteria and any harmful germs that may cause illness. James stated that the UVC bulb used in the product should last about 8,000 uses.

Hydro-lite is a one of the many water companies emerging in Milwaukee, which has become one of the world’s leading cities in water technology, research and testing.

More than 20 years ago a water parasite – cryptosporidium – breached the water supply of Milwaukee, leading to numerous illness cases and deaths. Since then, Milwaukee’s businesses, academic research institutions and government have committed to producing freshwater technologies that can be used locally, nationally and abroad. The city alone has invested more than $400 million into its water infrastructures and purification processes.

A recent investment by the Water Council and its partners is the Business, Research, Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin (The BREW) space, a mentor-driven incubator space for businesses interested in addressing freshwater issues. With help from The BREW, Hydro-lite is seeking a seed investment to bring its prototype to production. James said a goal for the company is improving the prototype for more rugged conditions.

Hydro-lite is seeking a $500,000 seed investment to move forward. James presented Nov. 12 during the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in Madison.

— Hernandez is a Life Sciences Communication and a Scandinavian Studies student at the UW-Madison.