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Bio-separation goes digital - HZDR start-up adds some excitement to mechanical separation technology

Press Release of November 30, 2016

Four investors are financing continued growth by i3 Membrane GmbH. High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) in Bonn, Innovationsstarter Fonds in Hamburg, Mittelständische Beteiligungsgesellschaft Sachsen mbH (MBG) in Dresden and a private US investor are investing a 7-digit Euro sum in further developing and launching new filters and separation technologies. Ultra-thin metal coatings on conventional membranes can be charged with electric current to capture charged nanoparticles such as viruses and cytotoxins – and can be controlled using a computer. Making biotechnological processes more efficient and simple while filters become smaller and more environmentally friendly.

“Our new separation technology involves the application of ultra-thin metal coatings to standard polymer membranes without impairing their porosity. The membranes, which have to date been filtering particles and biological substances such as bacteria in a purely mechanical fashion, can now capture viruses which are 10 to 100 times smaller – by applying an electrical charge of only 1 Volt to the metal coating”, explains Dr. Stephan Brinke-Seiferth, CEO at i3 Membrane GmbH.

Where separation technology was purely mechanical in the past, this invention now takes it into the digital age. Most biologically active compounds such as proteins, antibodies, viruses or DNA are charged. These substances can be captured using an opposing charge (adsorbing). To date, firmly installed charge carriers on membranes or surfaces were used for this. If the substances are to be released again (desorbing), additional chemicals such as acids or high concentrations of salt were needed. The electrically chargeable membrane not only facilitates adsorption and desorption; these processes can also be controlled digitally, enabling substances which block the membrane filters to be rejected. The filters can be smaller in size which also makes them less expensive. i3 Membrane has successfully launched a particularly compact sterile filter which protects patients from germs in hospitals. Other products are under development in the areas of biotechnology, diagnostics and water treatment.

The membrane market achieves annual sales of 15 billion USD worldwide and displays annual growth of approx. 10 percent. 50 percent of sales are achieved in the medical and pharmaceutical sector, whereby the market is still dominated by filter membranes made of plastics developed in the 1960s. The goal at i3 Membrane GmbH is to functionalize plastic membranes, thereby establishing additional separation characteristics using digital control in many areas of application.

“We are convinced of this intelligent yet simple production process and the new characteristics displayed by the filter membranes. And we are delighted to support the experienced team in growing their company”, comments Marianne Mertens, Investment Manager at High-Tech Gründerfonds.

“We regard the new separation technology at i3 as extremely technologically innovative and assume that it can be used to create a new generation of membranes based on this platform technology”, is how Dörte Bunge from Innovationsstarter Fonds Hamburg justifies the investment.

i3 Membrane GmbH was established in April 2013 with the support of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf.

Further information:
Dr. Stephan Brinke-Seiferth
i3 Membrane GmbH
Phone: +49 40 257674810
Email: s.brinkeseiferth@i3membrane.de
www.i3membrane.de

Media contact:
Christine Bohnet
Press spokesperson, head HZDR communications
Phone +49 351 260-2450
Email: c.bohnet@hzdr.de