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Four Massachusetts Companies Win EPA Funding for Sustainable and Innovative Products and Research

Release Date: 07/28/2014
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

BOSTON – Four Massachusetts companies are among 21 small businesses nationwide selected by EPA to receive approximately $100,000 each to develop technologies that will help the environment and public health. The four Mass. companies are Aspen Products Group of Marlborough, EnChem Engineering, Inc. of Newton, Reactive Innovations of Westford, and UltraCell Insulation of Newtonville.

The selected companies were among 21 small businesses in 14 states to receive a total of $2 million from EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research program to advance innovative products and research. Each year, EPA provides funds small businesses who compete in a two-phase process. In the first phase, small businesses can receive up to $100,000 for “proof of concept” of their technology. Those who are chosen can apply to receive up to $300,000 to develop and commercialize their technology in the second phase.

“This money gives small companies the ability to take their ideas and technology from the laboratory into the market place,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Companies like Precision are helping create a stronger economy for New England at the same time they protect our health and our environment.”

Aspen Products Group of Marlborough received $100,000 for their work developing a membrane to remove contaminants coming from wastewater sources that are found increasingly in drinking water supplies. These “emerging contaminants” include pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, hormones, flame retardants, personal care products, and pesticides. Aspen Products Group’s membrane technology could remove these pollutants at a fraction of the cost of existing treatment methods. In addition to its use in drinking water, the technology has applications in the chemical, petroleum, pharmaceutical, food-processing and wastewater-treatment industries.

“The presence of drinking water contaminants arising from personal care products, pharmaceuticals, agricultural run-off, and industrial processes is a growing concern as the frequency at which these contaminants are found in our nation’s water supplies increases,” said Mark Fokema, vice president of research and development at Aspen. “Aspen Products Group is developing a water treatment method to produce high purity drinking water from ground and surface water sources at lower costs than traditional treatment methods.”

EnChem Engineering, Inc. of Newton, Mass. received $99,920 to develop a new technology for the decontamination of wetted surfaces such as pipe walls where contaminants can “stick.” The technology uses a combined cleaning agent and destruction agent for a “one-two punch.” This technology should be more effective and cheaper than current methods for decontamination of a wide variety of contaminants.

“I am sincerely thankful for the funding and opportunity that EPA has given our company,” said Raymond Ball, president of EnChem. “We are confident that the results of this Phase I study will prove useful towards our commercialization of better environmental decontamination technology.”

UltraCell Insulation of Newtonville received $100,000 to develop a kind of insulation that is less expensive and more environmentally sound. Specifically, the company is commercializing a patent for making building insulation from all recycled cardboard to uniquely address the $7 billion insulation industry’s challenge of tighter building insulation codes, green building material content requirements, and a dwindling supply of newspaper print used to make cellulose insulation products today. The EPA award money is being used to support a large research and pilot production run this summer to gain a wider review and evaluation of their product by potential customers, distributors and partners.

“While we are thrilled of course by this EPA funding to help support our pilot production and market validation program this summer and fall,” said Mark Brandstein, president and CEO of UltraCell, “We are equally pleased of the recognition from the EPA of the tremendous potential impact our technology and process can have on the energy conservation and greenhouse gas reduction initiatives that are becoming a high priority in the US and worldwide.”

Reactive Innovations of Westford received $99,999 to develop a greener way to produce dimethyl carbonate, an environmentally benign solvent used in manufacturing products ranging from batteries to plastics. With most production occurring in China, and a significant shortage of U.S. manufacturers, production methods have historically involved toxic and hazardous reagents while consuming large amounts of energy. The method being developed by Reactive Innovations will not only allow for US manufacturing, but will do so using an efficient reactor that minimizes energy and waste streams. Reactive is developing an electrochemical synthesis method that reacts carbon dioxide and methanol feedstocks using an ionic liquid electrolyte medium to generate the solvent. This reaction process is being applied in Reactive's micro-channel electrochemical reactor that enables high production levels to be obtained continuously unlike present electrochemical methods.

Many of the recipient companies use EPA funding to bring their designs to reality, expand business, and create products that help protect human health and the environment. Companies that previously won these contracts include Faraday Technology Inc., which developed a non-carcinogenic chrome plating process, and Cambrian Innovation of Boston, which created the EcoVolt system that treats wastewater and generates energy in the process. Faraday Technology is planning to open a new alpha-scale facility in Clayton, Ohio, using EPA’s funding to commercialize its technology as it partners with Boeing and attempts to replace millions of pounds of hexavalent chromium, a cancer causing chemical in use in heavy duty machinery. Cambrian Innovation’s EcoVolt system is being tested and used by several wineries and breweries including Lagunitas, enabling it to produce methane to power and heat operations while treating wastewater on site.

The solicitation for the next round of SBIR Phase I awards will open this month.

More information about EPA’s SBIR Program: www.epa.gov/ncer/sbir

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