Grand Challenge winners 2020-21 prize-winning trip to La Trobe University

The all-female team from India who won the third round (2020-21) of the Technology Infusion Grand Challenge visited Melbourne in June to bring their sustainable product to life.

Story by Rei Fortes.

Team Catalyst from SRM Institute of Science and Technology, India, won a two-week-all-expense paid mentorship stay in Melbourne for their innovative design, developing a recyclable nano-engineered material that can be used to prevent membrane fouling when filtering water.

The team worked with professional experts, researchers, and academic mentors at La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus to transform their protoype into a commercial product for market.

“We are very delighted with the support that La Trobe has provided us in initiating our product,” said Priyanka Saravanan member of Team Catalyst. “The mentoring sessions have been really helpful with the business and management aspects of the project.”

At La Trobe, the team also had the opportunity to test manufacturing their own product using the advanced and highly automated machinery at the Centre for Technology Infusion.

“We tested imprinting biomaterials onto a polymeric membrane in the labs,” said Srinidhi Sonai Anand member of Team Catalyst. “It was a very good experience for us that we actually got to handle the equipment ourselves instead of depending on a technician.”

The product developed by the team is unlike other materials used in reverse-osmosis systems found in homes today. Instead of a removable water filter, it is a powder that can be applied onto membranes designed with specific enzymes that can break down all the bacterial species found on biofilms.

“Our product in a powdered form can be reused and stored for at least 12 months,” said Saravanan. “It is a more sustainable method compared to current solutions that can only be used once before having to discard it.”

Being a powdered form, the material has a larger number of use cycles with the ability to be removed from one membrane to another using a magnet. This allows the material to be used across a wide range of applications.

“Eventually we want to expand beyond water treatment,” said Rashmi Lenin member of Team Catalyst. “Our product can also be used in large scale processing industries like food and juices. Membranes have a very important role and with our product we can provide a more sustainable solution.”

Watch their visit highlights here.

La Trobe University extends their gratitude to the Victorian Government’s ‘Study Melbourne’ for being a co-sponsor of the Grand Challenge program.