Home Companies New Investment Will Help Durham CleanTech Startup Improve How We Get Clean Water

New Investment Will Help Durham CleanTech Startup Improve How We Get Clean Water

by Chantal Allam

A women-led cleantech startup is getting ready to pilot its “game-changing” water purification technology after landing $700,000 in funding.

NALA Systems, headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, says it has developed new reverse-osmosis membranes that could cut the cost of water desalination by up to 40%.

This week, the startup announced plans to push ahead with developing its technology for market after securing funds in an “oversubscribed” round led by Good Growth Capital.

NC-based angels at RTP Capital and Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs (WALE) also contributed, with Oval Park Capital closing the round in the second tranche.

“Our plan [this year] is to get prototypes built and start on pilot trials,” CEO and founder Sue Mecham told Hypepotamus.

Sue Mecham

“Because this is a new technology in the industry, we will be relying heavily on the success of our pilot trials to get our first customers.” 

Worldwide, 780 million people do not have access to safe water. An estimated 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation (more than 35% of the world’s population).

That’s not good enough, according to Justin Wright-Eakes, managing partner at Oval Park Capital.

“We are excited about this investment, not only because of the large market opportunity, but also the meaningful impact that these new technologies could have on the worsening global water crisis.”

‘Clean water for all’

Reverse osmosis (RO) is currently considered the most efficient way to purify water.

However, current RO polyamide membranes are damaged by chlorine-based disinfectants and suffer from severe biofouling.

Judy Riffle, NALA’s chief technology officer and a professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech University, spent years working to develop a new polymer for water desalination that was chlorine tolerant and had a high salt rejection. She then brought the idea to her daughter, NALA CEO, who recognized the value in her discovery.

That’s how NALA Systems was started back in 2018. 

Today, the startup operates out of labs based at the First Flight Venture Center in the Research Triangle Park.

Mecham says its chlorine-tolerant membranes will eliminate biofouling and the operating costs associated with it, and function as a “drop-in replacement” to current PA-TFC membranes with comparable flux and salt rejection.

The result: big savings, less cleaning, longer membrane lifetime, and “worry-free operations.”

The team is targeting to begin sales of the membrane in 2022.




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