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Treating wastewater, one atomic bond at a time.

Updated: Jan 17

Country: Singapore

Industry: Renewable Energy Semiconductor Manufacturing

Founded date: 2021

Massimo Spina, Co-Founder of ReActo

Each year, Industries produce more than 70 billion tons of wastewater with highly toxic and non biodegradable persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Currently, there is no cost-effective solution to fully treat the POPs: wastewater containing POPs are either incinerated or improperly treated and released into the environment, where these pollutants accumulate through the biological chain and pose serious health hazards to humankind and the environment.

Alternative technologies to treat this type of wastewater are called Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOPs) and they rely on using highly reactive species to decompose the pollutants into water and CO2. AOPs have been around for decades, but their wide adoption has been hindered by their high costs and limited operating range.

After six years of research and development in between the departments in National University of Singapore - physics, civil and environmental engineering. In 2021, Dr. Massimo Spina and Dr. Jianxiong Xu, created reActo. They have a patented technology, exclusively licensed to reActo, that recycles hard-to-treat industrial wastewater with POPs (persistent organic pollutants). ‘reActo is the first company in the world to atomically bond graphene onto electrodes to create an advanced electrochemical system that can fully decompose the toughest-to-treat industrial wastewater into water and carbon dioxide without using harsh chemicals and just by using electricity.’

Wastewater treatment is a severe issue that is only becoming worse, leading to increasingly strict national and international rules as well as an increase in the number of businesses receiving fines and legal action. Solution? ReActo got it. ‘The patented technology, exclusively licensed to reActo, not only enables chemicals and pharmaceutical companies to safely treat their waste on-site and residue-free, but also recycles hard-to-treat wastewater and minimizes the waste sent to landfills while reducing greenhouse gasses emissions and treatment costs.‘

The journey didn’t come without trial. In fact, just a few days over their first month a challenge presented itself to them. Without warning, one of their key materials was restricted for export both in Europe and the US due to scarcity. Six years of working together with their supplier came to a halt. It took a couple of months before they found an alternative with performance just as good as the previous one. This experience taught reActo's team to never take anything for granted and to always have a backup plan, especially for the things that are key to operations.

Numerous lessons and realizations have been made through reActo’s journey thus far. Besides preparing for the unexpected, one of them is putting value and importance to the people you surround yourself with. ‘The startup journey is a bumpy road, and it is essential to be surrounded by experienced and inspiring people that are willing to help whenever they can.’ NUS Grip Incubator, the Shell StartUp Engine Accelerator and the XTC challenge - to name a few of the contributing organizations that have made an impact to reActo's team.

This year, out of the 2,000 startups that were participating, reActo won the Global Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) competition under the Cleantech, Energy & Environment category. This was the result of continuous hard work put in by the entire reActo team; always finding better ways to communicate their vision to partners, investors and stakeholders. Singapore is just the beginning. We are excited to see reActo provide the sustainable solution for industrial wastewater all over the world.

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