June 30, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Will pasteurization become a bit passe?

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In Israel, high tech on the edge

June 30, 2006
BET SHEMESH, Israel--Atlantium wants to take Louis Pasteur down a peg.

The three-year-old company, based about 20 miles outside Tel Aviv, has come up with a water disinfecting system combining ultraviolet light and concepts from fiber optics that the company claims can kill far more microbes, often at a lower cost, than conventional techniques. If a conventional water disinfecting system can erase 10,000 bacteria in a given volume of water, Atlantium will wipe out a billion or more, estimates CEO Ilan Wilf.

"We have a high kill rate of biological material," he said.

Some large food processors in Europe, in fact, are currently looking to see if Atlantium's system could replace both the water purification systems and pasteurization systems on some manufacturing lines, he said. Conceivably, the system could make it cheaper to produce things like cottage cheese that have high added water content and require water purification.

In making those products now, manufacturers first disinfect the water with light, chemicals and/or a membrane. They then pasteurize, or heat up, whatever the water goes into to kill more microbes in the added water. (Atlantium's system can't replace pasteurization for milk because the opaque liquid absorbs UV.)

Aside from killing more bacteria, Wilf said, the Atlantium system would give food a longer shelf life.

Coca-Cola's Israel plant is currently installing a pilot system with Atlantium's reactors, while a local dairy has already replaced some of its pasteurizers with one.

Though it hasn't attracted as much attention as alternative energy, water has emerged as one of the large opportunities in the clean-technology boom. The water infrastructure in parts of Europe and the U.S. is several decades old. Regulations are forcing municipalities to reduce chemicals like chlorine in water processing. It could take up to a trillion dollars to upgrade the U.S. water systems over the coming decades, estimates Ira Ehrenpreis, a partner at VC firm Technology Partners. Food processors, Wilf adds, are also constantly looking for ways to reduce costs.

As a result, companies like Atlantium and Sensicore have attracted venture investors. Giants like General Electric and Siemens have jumped in as well to develop water purification and desalination systems. In two rounds, Atlantium has raised $15 million and will seek more.

Like those of several other companies, Atlantium's system kills microbes by exposing them to ultraviolet light. In most of these systems, water in a tube passes over submerged UV lights. The light, however, is inefficiently deployed and gets dissipated inside the tube, according to Wilf.

In Atlantium's system, two UV lights are stationed above the water passing through a tube. The tube also contains a quartz insert manufactured in Germany. The light passes through the water, disinfecting it, but then it reflects off the quartz and passes through the water again for a second disinfecting round, and the process then repeats itself several times. By controlling the angle and direction of the light, the quartz insert effectively creates curtains of UV light that the water must pass through. Patents are pending.

"We're using principles of physics to move light through water," Ilan said. "Because of the properties of the quartz sleeve, it behaves like a fiber optic cable."

Earlier, the company used laser light, but it proved too expensive. Water purification systems can cost about $200,000, but even at that price, laser had trouble fitting within the cost constraints. (The company also shortened its name from Atlantium Lasers to Atlantium.)

Atlantium began marketing its products last year and has now entered 15 geographic markets.

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9 comments

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I am confused
"(Atlantium's system can't replace pasteurization for milk because the opaque liquid absorbs UV.)

....

Coca-Cola's Israel plant is currently installing a pilot system with Atlantium's reactors, while a local dairy has already replaced some of its pasteurizers with one. "

What did the dairy replace if it can't do milk?
Posted by schubb (202 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What they replaced
A dairy also needs purified water for processing, especially cheeses. They likely replaced one of those units.
Posted by amadensor (248 comments )
Link Flag
Not a new idea
Many home salt-water aquariums started using ultraviolet sterilizers years ago.
Posted by Get_Bent (534 comments )
Reply Link Flag
usually how it goes
Over the next decade, the world will likely be changed quite a bit in the areas of health and energy by various companies "discovering" technologies and processes which have been around for decades but have been discarded or ignored because they would've negatively affected sales of existing products and services, or perish the thought, their stock value. Unless it's profitable immediately, it really doesn't matter how much better a certain fuel or purification process might be.
Posted by DaClyde (96 comments )
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Here's the new part
UV sterilization has been around since around 1905, but the point here is that it so far hasn't been greatly efficient. that's why chlorine and other techniques are more dominant. (it's explained in the article.)
Posted by michael kanellos (65 comments )
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UV requires 3 minutes or more
to kill bacteria if I remember my microbiology correctly. The local WalMart has a UV sterilizer on it's self serve bottled water dispenser but the water passes by it to quickly to really do anything other than to make one THINK that it helps. I sure hope that this 'new' system exposes the SAME water to constant UV light for at least 3 minutes per drop
Posted by The user with no name (259 comments )
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TO THE EDITOR .I REPRESENT A COMPANY WHO HAS A UV DISINFECTANT SYSTEM WHICH CAN ACT SUCCESSFULLY ON TURBID LIQUIDS .I WOULD LIKE TO SEND YOU A EDITORAL
WHICH WOULD SHOW YOYR READERS THE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM ,MILK WINE JUICE ETC WE HAVE A WORLD WIDE PATENT.WE ARE CURRENTLY RELEASING THE PROCESS WORLD WIDE ,AND I AM SURE IT WOULD INFORMATIVE AND HELPFUL TO YOUR READERS
KEVIN WHELAN PLEASE REPLY
Posted by 55Kevin (1 comment )
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hi sorry to bother you, but could you please tell me the name of the company developing these systems for milk, as im very intrested in them, my email is willt1984@hotmail.com

thanks
Posted by willt1984 (1 comment )
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what is your company that may be able to pasturize milk i would like to know more
ammon
Posted by dairy_barnes (1 comment )
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