UH tech bridge bound

Houston energy transition company announces move into new facility

At the UH Tech Bridge, Zenith aims to accelerate its research and development of novel gas and liquid filters, according to UH, to help reduce the cost of clean hydrogen. Photo by Natalie Harms

A Houston-area startup that is purifying water and chemicals with a innovative technology has announced its new office on the University of Houston's campus.

Missouri city-based Zenith Purification develops sorbents and polymeric membranes that can be used for carbon dioxide removal, hydrogen and natural gas purification, and water purification. According to the company, its processes are cost effective and offer a more efficient way to remove contaminants from water.

At the UH Tech Bridge, Zenith also aims to accelerate its research and development of novel gas and liquid filters, according to UH, to help reduce the cost of clean hydrogen.

“We are excited to embark on a new journey with the latest addition to our vibrant community, Zenith Purification LLC,” Darayle Canada, program director, startup development operations at UH Technology Bridge, said in a statement. “With their visionary team and cutting-edge technologies, they are poised to make a significant impact in the market. Their membership at the UH Technology Bridge will provide them with a supportive ecosystem, mentorship, resources, and networking opportunities to accelerate their growth.”

Zenith was founded in 2021 by Jian J. Zou in 2021. Zou has been granted three patents for his work in polymeric membrane synthesis and process development, which are the bases of the company. In July, Zenith was awarded its first research grant from the Department of Energy.

The UH Tech Bridge focuses on providing research and development space to UH-affiliated startups and entrepreneurs. The 15-building complex and its 31,000 square feet of incubator space houses more than 20 small companies and startups that provide internship and learning opportunities for UH students, along with several federally funded research centers and institutes.

In August the Tech Bridge announced that it would be partnering up with the UH Texas Gulf Coast Small Business Development Center to launch a new, collaborative program that will help innovators and entrepreneurs develop a pitch or commercialization plan. And in March it received a $2.875 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. to establish The Deck Innovation & Coworking Center.

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A View From HETI

The plant, expected to go online later this year, will process brine produced from lithium-containing waste-magnesium salts. Photo via ibatterymetals.com

Houston-based International Battery Metals, whose technology offers an eco-friendly way to extract lithium compounds from brine, is installing what it’s billing as the world’s first commercial modular direct-lithium extraction plant.

The mobile facility is located at US Magnesium’s operations outside Salt Lake City. The plant, expected to go online later this year, will process brine produced from lithium-containing waste-magnesium salts. The resulting lithium chloride product will provide feedstock for high-purity lithium carbonate generated by US Magnesium.

Under its agreement with US Magnesium, International Battery Metals (IBAT) will receive royalties on lithium sales, as well as payments for equipment operations based on lithium prices and performance.

IBAT says its patented technology is the only system that delivers a 97 percent extraction rate for lithium chloride from brine water, with up to 98 percent of water recycled and with minimal use of chemicals.

“Commercial operations will serve growing lithium demand from automakers for electric vehicle batteries, as well as energy storage batteries to support growing electricity demand and to balance the grid from increased renewable energy integration,” IBAT says in a news release.

Initially, the less than three-acre plant will annually produce 5,000 metric tons of lithium chloride. The modular plant was fabricated in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“Our commercial operations with US Mag will advance a productive lithium extraction operation,” says Garry Flowers, CEO of IBAT. “Given current lithium demand, supply dependence on China, and permitting challenges, our expected commercial operations are coming at an ideal time to produce lithium at scale in the U.S.”

IBAT says the technology has been validated by independent reviewers and has been tested in Texas, California, Michigan, Ohio, and Oklahoma, as well as Argentina, Canada, Chile, and Germany.

IBAT says its modular concept positions the company to be a key supplier for rising U.S. lithium demand, providing an alternative to China and other global suppliers.

John Burba, founder, CTO and director of IBAT, says the modular extraction technology “will be the basis of future lithium extraction from brine resources around the world.”

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