Way back in 1959, physicist Richard Feynman noted in his famous lecture that “there is plenty of room at the bottom”. This statement continues to be true and relevant when it comes to the technology used by 3AWater in its proprietary nanoporous filters. The filters concentrate metal ions from water solutions into solid form. The nanoporous material actually contains an area corresponding to a football field in a volume equal to a sugar cube. Stacking all the pores found in this nanoporous sugar cube into a single long tube, the length of the tube would reach the distance between the Earth and Moon 8 times. These extreme properties contain the secret to revolutionary technology.
The story of 3AWater started already years ago in the University of Turku, Finland, which carried out research in using nanoporous materials in gas sensors and drug delivery. I transferred to the University of Eastern Finland in 2008, with Joakim Riikonen, then my doctoral student. Together, we started to screen the possibilities for using modified nanoporous material as a metal collector, mainly for purification purposes. One milestone was reached in the form of a research project funded by the Academy of Finland in 2015. Back then, the material was produced with a laborious and non-scalable electrochemical etching method. Due to challenges in producing the material on a large scale, we started to consider its commercial application with limited material consumption. We ended up using the material for metal analysis as we recognized that precise metal analysis of natural water continues to be incredibly complicated and time consuming. We applied for Business Finland funding for the commercialization of research project in 2017, and Tuomo Nissinen became the project manager. At this point Tommi Tiihonen also joined the team as a project researcher. The project was boosted by encouragement from Mikko Juuti, who also suggested that we contact his former colleague Pekka Savolahti. Luckily, Pekka decided to join our team. After the end of the project, 3AWater was established in 2019.
Since winning the Tahko Ski Lift Pitch competition in 2019, and getting essential support from EIT Raw Materials and seed funding from Butterfly Ventures, we have been focusing strongly on the company’s first commercial product to be launched in 2021.
So far, our journey has been extremely interesting. It has been a pleasure to work with our inspiring and talented team for all these years – and the company’s team continues to be expanding. I am looking forward to a bright future, where 3AWater contributes to making the world a better and safer place to live in.