Kiwi company invents tiny cleansing 'sponges'

Businessman Sir James Wallace is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a Waikato tech company, he believes has massive potential for New Zealand.

The company, called Ligar, has developed a molecular process that extracts the bad stuff from things like contaminated water and smoke-tainted wine.

In a small lab in Hamilton scientists have pioneered a technology they hope will soon be used in industries around the world, from mining to food.

What looks like black powder is actually thousands of tiny polymers - specially designed molecules that can filter out good and bad particles.

They work like a sponge dipped in water.

"It's a sponge that is very small, has holes in it, that are specifically shaped not to catch everything but to catch very specific molecules," says Ligar chief executive Nigel Slaughter.

The yellow residue in the bottom of the bottle is smoke taint removed from wine that was made from grapes exposed to the smoke from a bush fire.

"What we wanted to do was selectively remove the smoke and leave everything else untouched, because the wine makers they just want to have their wine as it was, as it should be, with all the flavour in there," says Mr Slaughter.

The same technique can remove the chromium that is used to tan hides. That's what caught the attention of the Wallace Corporation, which is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in Ligar.

"It does seem extraordinary the applications that can be, from burnt wine, which seems strange, through to everything under the sun," says Sir Wallace.

The technology has the potential to remove good and bad substances from food.

"One of the favourites at the moment is around agri-chemicals, fungicides, pesticides, that are used on crops that are making their way in very low levels into foods," says Mr Slaughter.

Industrial scale trials will now begin - the aim is to have the first commercial products on sale by the end of the year.

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source: newshub archive