Solar Concentrator Cleans Up Contaminants

Oregon BEST awards funding to fast-track technology that uses concentrated solar to break down organic contamination in fluids and solids

PORTLAND, Ore. – An Oregon startup developing a new clean technology that combines concentrated solar with UV radiation to break down organic contamination in agriculture waste streams, ponds and industrial sites has been awarded early-stage funding from Oregon BEST to work with researchers at Oregon State University.

Developed by Portland, Ore.-based Focal Technologies, Inc., the technology, called Ray™, uses an 8-ft. diameter solar concentrating lens combined with a reaction chamber where effluent is exposed to as much as 10,000 BTU per hour and 4,000 WM² of ultra-violet energy.

Powered by the sun, the system can clean water and soils without ongoing operational costs. It is also capable of disassociating high impact contaminates such as cyanide, glycol, high BOD content effluents, hydrocarbons, coliform and other organic based contaminants. When a separate receiving option is used, the technology can handle solids, including contaminated soils and medical waste, with no emissions. The system is equipment based, so it is mobile, scalable and leasable.

Ray lens by Focal Technologies"Our system can break down a wide range of contaminants, but we are initially focused on remediating E. coli and other harmful bacteria in human or animal waste steams," said Eric Steinmeyer, CEO and president of Focal Technologies. "Our paradigm shift is using the sun as a tool for direct application. Ray is not an offset or efficiency boost for processes that can already be accomplished. By focusing the sun directly toward the application, we're doing things that are very difficult to achieve with fossil fuels, like remediating complex organic contaminants in remote locations."

The 8-ft. Ray system is self contained and off-the-grid, so it can be deployed anywhere, including in rural areas of developing countries for micro sewage treatment, at dairies where effluent must be treated to prevent bacterial contamination of streams and to purify wash-water for produce as mandated by new USDA/FDA standards.

Current bioreaction systems are expensive to purchase and install, and require ongoing electricity costs to maintain the bacteria used to feed the process, Steinmeyer said. "Ray can treat the same effluent for a fraction of the cost without electricity or any in-ground infrastructure, and scaled up to the maximum size of 40 feet, the system is a cost-effective solar option for remediating cyanide, glycol, brewery waste, fuel and contaminants in sediments such as PCBs.

Focal Technologies' Ray logoThe technology was developed by Don Steinmeyer, a former member of the Chief Engineers Office for Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, and a former rocket engineer who helped develop the solar collection systems for Skylab. Don Steinmeyer also developed the heliostats for Solar One and invented the first large parabolic dish systems using the Stirling Engine that set the record for efficiency in the 1980s. The team of engineers working on the Ray system includes John Zagelow and Marty French of Specialty Analytical and Gary Jakel of GVA Northwest.

The $210,000 investment through Oregon BEST's Early-Stage Investments program is enabling Focal Technologies to collaborate with OSU researchers Tyler Radneicki and Nick AuYeung. The OSU professors and graduate students will help convert an existing test unit into a batch unit, build a new prototype and do testing to establish baselines. The Ray system is fabricated in the U.S. by Pacific Northwest companies, mostly located in Oregon.

“We're thrilled that Oregon BEST and professors Radneicki and AuYeung are going to work with us to provide third-party validation of our new technology, because we believe that great developments come from partnerships," Steinmeyer said.

Ken Vaughn, Director of Commercialization Programs at Oregon BEST, said university-industry collaboration is at the heart of Oregon BEST's mission, and the Ray system is a good fit for the organization's investment program

"We're pleased to help support this promising clean technology that has a wide range of potential applications," Vaughn said. "By connecting Oregon BEST Member Researchers at Oregon State with Focal Technologies, we're helping speed commercialization of this innovative approach to remediation and ultimately creating jobs here in Oregon."

Oregon BEST offers a wide range of funding and support for cleantech startups in Oregon, and currently has more than 40 start-up companies listed as Oregon BEST Companies that are receiving help moving their technologies to the marketplace.

Media Contact: Gregg Kleiner, 541-740-9654
Sources: Ken Vaughn, Oregon BEST, 503-430-4529; Eric Steinmeyer, Focal Technologies, Inc., 503-804-0143

About Oregon BEST
Oregon BEST funds and assists cleantech startups, bringing together Oregon’s significant R&D strengths to support entrepreneurs in the creation of new products and services. As the nexus for clean technology innovation, Oregon BEST builds capability, convenes collaborations and accelerates solutions to environmental challenges that deliver prosperity in all corners of Oregon. More than 250 Oregon BEST Member Researchers and a network of nine Oregon BEST Labs at four partner universities (Oregon State University, Oregon Tech, Portland State University, and University of Oregon) offer research expertise and lab equipment to industry. Oregon BEST competitively awards Early-Stage Investments to collaborations between startup companies and Oregon BEST Member Faculty at partner universities.

About Focal Technologies, Inc.
Focal Technologies is the developer of Ray™, a passive solar concentrating system that kills E. Coli to comply with FSMA Standards and reduce total coliform to meet discharge permit limits. The portable system utilizes concentrated sunlight and the UV spectrum to break down organics and sterilize bacteria and has a wide range of applications.