GreenBox Cuts Waste, Boosts Energy

Thursday, November 4, 2010 @ 12:11 AM gHale

E3 Technologies, LLC, a new firm based in Athens, Ohio, will develop the “GreenBox” designed to clean commercial and agricultural wastewater and produce hydrogen energy.
The company, founded by the Ohio University faculty inventor of the technology, Gerardine Botte, is a new tenant in the Innovation Center, the university’s small high-tech business incubator. E3 licensed a suite of electrochemical devices and technologies developed by Botte to commercialize for the green energy market.
“The ‘GreenBox’ is the first of many products we’ll be developing. I think we have the right team at the right time—energy and water issues are huge right now,” said Botte, the chief technology officer for the company who also is a professor of biomolecular and chemical engineering at Ohio University.
Through a patented low-energy electrolysis process, the “GreenBox” converts ammonia and urea in wastewater to hydrogen, nitrogen and pure water. The electric current in the device creates an electrochemical reaction that oxidizes urea and turns it into carbon dioxide, which then sequesters in the electrolyte material in the machine. The box also produces hydrogen energy.
“It’s a synergistic technology: By reducing emissions, you also get a free, clean source of energy. As the clean energy economy develops, this could provide an attractive energy source,” said company Chief Executive Kent Shields, who has 30 years of experience in the energy field.
Urea electrolysis also could be an extremely efficient process for producing ammonia for selective catalytic reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions, he added.
“Nitrogen oxide (NOx) is a particular problem in coal power plant and diesel exhaust,” Shields said. “We have received some very exciting inquiries from companies in both areas.”
The technology also could help a wide variety of industries—from the military and agriculture to wastewater treatment operations and commercial construction companies—deal with the disposal of ammonia, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers to be a serious environmental toxin, Botte said. Ammonia in wastewater from agricultural, industrial and municipal sources impacts air quality, surface water and ground water.
The researcher is hopeful the invention could aid farmers, who often face using or purchasing additional land to create lagoons for the large amount of animal waste from hogs or cattle subject to EPA regulations. A farmer with 2,000 hogs might need a “GreenBox” that runs on only 5 kilowatts of power—the same amount of power needed in an average home—to treat the ammonia waste, Botte said.
E3 forecasts similar energy efficiencies for other uses: A commercial building with 300 employees would need a unit that requires only 1 kilowatt to operate, Botte said. The technology could reduce operational costs for eliminating ammonia from wastewater by 60 percent.
The company now plans to develop a larger-scale, commercial prototype of the “GreenBox” by the third quarter of 2011, Shields said.

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