H2NanO founder Stuart Linley holding water samples

H2nanO uses the power of light to create safe drinking water

Water is crucial to life on earth, yet it is only growing more scarce, with contaminants like petrochemicals, hormonal drugs, and painkillers added every day into the earth’s watershed. These contaminants are dangerous and do not break down easily, making it difficult to treat water quickly, effectively, and at a low cost. H2nanO is responding to this challenge by leveraging nanotechnology to develop a treatment for industrial water streams that can be powered by the sun or artificial UV light.

H2nanO’s proprietary, nano-enabled photocatalyst technology is in essence “water treating water.” This allows their system to efficiently and passively scrub wastewater of toxic materials to allow safe discharge. Once the water is cleaned, the catalyst is completely recovered from the water and can be reused again continuously to create more clean water at low cost and without generating any waste.

The H2nanO team behind the system is composed of nanotechnology engineers Stuart Linley, Tim Leshuk, and Zac Young, as well as Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor in Nanotechnology and Chemical Engineering, Dr. Frank Gu. Originally based out of Dr. Frank Gu’s lab on-campus at the University of Waterloo, the team has now been a part of Velocity Science since 2015.

“Being at Velocity is very community-based. Working in an entrepreneurial ecosystem of doers, from the mentors, down to our peers, everyone is pushing each other to work harder and smarter.” – Zac Young, Co-founder, H2nanO

There are always challenges running a science-based startup, and one of the large ones for H2nanO is that water treatment is a risk-averse space. Trying to understand how to build a startup that addresses such a large infrastructural challenge has been exacting, but fun for the team. H2nanO is currently completing two pilot-level demonstration projects. Their first project involves solar treatment of wastewater in the oil sands, where water is shipped to them daily and treated using solar detoxification. Their second project is working with a Burlington company on a scale-up of their UV treatment system that can be deployed in a number of sectors, from metal manufacturing, to the textiles industry. The team is now looking to grow out their team soon with more project managers and people to develop the tech for the scale out, and to begin selling a commercial product this summer.

H2nanO’s goal is to be the standard for treating water at the municipal level and to eventually supply safe and sustainable water to developing regions around in the world.

“I want to be able to drink a glass of water that has been fully treated from the oil sands, or an industrial plant, and be able to say that our team was part of making this a safe, and sustainable industry in Canada.”