Wednesday April 17, 2013 2 commentsBy Elizabeth Kraus
LAFAYETTE -- Tusaar Corp. is commercializing a University of Colorado-developed technology that can remove and recover more than 45 metals.
The company is commercializing the technology to address both the increased need for metal and the growing environmental effects of metal usage. As more metal is used for electronics, transportation, construction, etc., there is an increased need to extract metal from the Earth and remove toxic metals that find their way into the water supply and other environments.
"Even when a plane is de-iced on the runway, a fair amount of metal ends up in the drain," says Tusaar CEO Gautam Khanna. "We are using so much metal in our everyday lives that we are seeing metal contamination everywhere - our water, our fields and our landfills. In addition, our need for metal has led to the explosive demand for mining technologies that can recover metal more quickly and cost-effectively."
There are significant economic, political and environmental factors driving the metal capture market. Tusaar Corp estimates its addressable market to be $3.4 billion annually and growing due to needs in the following areas:
- Water treatment: The need to remove metal from water is increasing due to:
- Increased mining - The turning of the Earth and disposal of mining waste has introduced new metals into the water supply.
- Increased water use - Extracting more water from aquifers has caused the water table to drop, which has left less water to dilute metals that have always been present.
- Increased metal use - The growing use and disposal of metals has increased the presence of metals in the water supply.
- Rare earth extraction: This market is increasing due to the need to comply with environmental standards of countries with significant rare earth deposits. Most rare earth metals are currently mined in China because of the low cost of compliance. There is increased demand for environmentally-friendly extraction from countries that cannot currently cost compete with China or those that experienced a trade embargo by China, such as Japan.
- Nuclear and thermal waste: Because thermal and nuclear power plants are no longer allowed to emit waste through a smoke stack, they use water to scrub the gases of metals and need cost-effective methods to treat their waste water prior to disposal. Nuclear waste has been collecting at various federal sites and the Departments of Energy and Defense are aggressively searching for technologies that can remove radioactive metals from contaminated surface and ground water.
Tusaar is looking to capitalize on this growing market by providing a more simple and cost-effective -- and non-toxic -- metal capture solution. According to Khanna, there are certain metals that readily available technologies do not have the capability of removing. In addition, current extraction processes tend to be very expensive and labor intensive, often requiring the use of toxic chemicals and significant pre-treatment steps before removal can be accomplished.
The Tusaar media - the substance used to remove the metal -- can perform in environments that contain many other substances, thereby greatly reducing the need for pre-treatment.
"Contamination rarely occurs in controlled environments," Khanna said. "For example, water contaminated by metal often also contains iron. While iron is non-toxic, most removal processes require a pretreatment to first remove the iron, hence making the removal process more expensive and lengthy."
Tusaar's media is also non-toxic, reusable and requires minimal monitoring. In addition, the process allows for the independent collection and retention of many of the metals being extracted. This component of the Tusaar product has captured the interest of rare earth extractors in the global market.
"We've seen significant interest from countries who have either been barred from purchasing rare earth from China or have significant rare earth deposits, but can't cost compete with China's low environmental standards," Khanna said.
"Additionally, because our media can remove metal from pretty much anything, we have seen some interest in recovering metal from recycled products such as CFL light bulbs and hope to expand that market as well."
The University of Colorado is currently using Tusaar's technology to treat waste generated from some of their labs. By using this technology, the school has been able to significantly reduce the amount and toxicity of their waste. An independent chemical engineering study has validated that the technology can be scaled up to five tons per day and the company is currently in negotiation with significant industry players in both the rare earth extraction and water treatment industries.
Given the advantages Tusaar's solution presents in terms of cost, time and impact on the environment, the company said it hopes to provide a more sustainable solution for water treatment, rare earth extraction, and nuclear and thermal waste management.
For more information about Tusaar Corp., visit www.Tusaar.com.