An Electroporation Drinking Water Disinfection System

EPA Contract Number: 68D00250
Title: An Electroporation Drinking Water Disinfection System
Investigators: Schlager, Kenneth J.
Small Business: Microbial Systems Inc.
Current Small Business: Bioelectromagnetics Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2000 through March 1, 2001
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , SBIR - Water and Wastewater , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The Phase I objective is to design, construct, and test a scaled-up, flow-through, electroporation potable water disinfection system after the design parameters have been established by using commercial laboratory electroporation equipment. Electroporation is a technique for increasing cell membrane permeability using high voltage electric fields. The creation of transient pores in protozoal cyst and bacterial cell membranes will allow for significantly reduced dosages of chlorine in drinking water disinfection. Also, it will make it practical to inactivate cystlike microorganisms such as Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia with chlorine concentration near the residual requirement. Electroporation is an extremely efficient process. Pulsed electric DC fields of extremely short duration (20 microseconds) and low duty cycle (1-10 Hertz) result in very low power usage. Electroporation systems are easily scalable from small systems to very large capacity units for major metropolitan treatment plants. Initial system development will emphasize both Cryptosporidium oocyst and bacterial disinfection because the same electric field strength will inactivate both classes of microorganisms at about the same level of chlorine concentration.

Electroporation is not a new concept, and it has been applied in molecular biology and genetic engineering to modify cellular structures for a number of years. The laboratory-scale electroporators used in such research, however, are small in size creating the required electric fields in millimeter range cuvettes. Water disinfection would require scaleup designs suitable for online treatment in 6-inch (or larger) water pipes. The primary initial market prospects are the 7,300 water utilities in the United States and Canada. Important industrial markets include cooling water treatment and food processing.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, water treatment, drinking water, energyyefficient, engineering, microbiology, chemistry, EPA., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Drinking Water, Engineering, Chemistry, & Physics, Environmental Engineering, alternative disinfection methods, monitoring, electrochemical technology, exposure and effects, drinking water filtration plants, exposure, microorganisms, community water system, pulsed electric field, alternative drinking water disinfection, Other - risk management, treatment, microbial risk management, contaminant removal, drinking water contaminants, drinking water treatment, Giardia, electroporation, drinking water system, cell membrane permeability

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report