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Three Mass. Firms Awarded EPA Research Grants to Develop Environmental Technologies by Small Businesses

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David Deegan (

BOSTON - Three small businesses in Massachusetts are among 15 firms nationwide selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to share $1.6 million in funding that is helping to develop technologies that provide sustainable solutions for environmental issues.

The Mass. firms - Giner Inc. of Newton, Vuronyx Technologies of Woburn, and Reactive Innovations, LLC of Westford, are receiving Phase I contracts from EPA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which awards contracts annually through a two-phase competition. Companies compete for a Phase I award of $100,000 by submitting research that addresses key environmental issues. After receiving a Phase I award, companies are eligible to compete for a Phase II award of $300,000 to further develop and commercialize the technology.

"EPA's Small Business Innovation Research program is awarding funding to these small businesses because they have demonstrated the potential to create technologies that will improve our environment and our economy," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "These technologies are focused on creating cutting-edge products that can help solve today's complex environmental problems and enhance economic growth."

Under the EPA contract, the companies will work on the following projects:

Giner, Inc., of Newton, Mass., is working to develop an inexpensive chemical sensor for indoor air quality applications. Under this project, Giner, Inc. proposes to design and develop small, hand-held and inexpensive electrochemical microsensors for the accurate, sensitive and rapid detection of chemicals in residential buildings. A proposed hand-held device could also employ integrated control of ventilation and HVAC systems to address one of the leading causes of energy waste stemming from the constant and sometimes unnecessary need to replace indoor air with outside air to provide clean air to the building inhabitants.

"We are extremely pleased that we have been awarded a Phase I SBIR contract by the EPA," said Dr. Cortney Mittelsteadt, Ph.D. Chief Executive Officer of Giner, Inc. "Monitoring building indoor air quality (IAQ) represents an important application for our sensor technology."

Vuronyx Technologies of Woburn, Mass., is working to develop "capacitive deionization" as an energy efficient and cost effective technology for water desalination. Collaborating with researchers at Georgia Tech, this project is working to develop nanostructured carbon material for effective and economical water and wastewater desalination. It is hoped that these innovations will help increase potable water security in small communities, and provide the shale gas and mining industry an effective and economical solution for water treatment.

Sandip Agarwal, Principal Investigator on the project for Vuronyx Technologies, said, "We are pleased to have been awarded Phase 1 SBIR grant from EPA. This grant will help us develop a cost-effective and easy to implement water desalination technology for purification of brackish and industrial waste waters, so that the purified water can be used in small or remote communities, disaster struck regions, or in shale gas extraction. The SBIR program is critical funding program that enables small businesses such as ours to demonstrate proof of concept results on promising early-stage technologies."

Reactive Innovations, LLC of Westford, Mass., is working to develop an inexpensive hand-held monitor for measuring fugitive methane emissions. Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted after carbon dioxide, however, on a pound-to-pound comparison methane has a 25 times greater impact on climate change than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.

According to Dr. Michael C. Kimble, President of Reactive Innovations, "International agencies across the world are developing a global network of sensors to measure greenhouse gas emissions in support of climate change. Reactive's methane sensors support the US Climate Action Plan to accurately characterize methane emission sources helping to further design mitigation strategies."

EPA's SBIR funding boosts local economies by creating jobs and promoting collaborations among small businesses through product testing and research. This funding also supports technologies aimed at creating cleaner manufacturing materials and better infrastructure in communities.

EPA is one of 11 federal agencies that participate in the SBIR program, enacted in 1982 to strengthen the role of small businesses in federal research and development, create jobs, and promote U.S. technical innovation. To be eligible, a company must be an organized, for-profit U.S. business and have fewer than 500 employees.

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