NanoH20 raises $60M for clean water tech

As I reported late last year, a startup developing technology that can clean water with low amounts of energy has been quietly raising funds from a group of high profile investors. On Monday NanoH20 announced that it’s closed $60 million in financing from chemical giant BASF, oil refiner Total, and Valley investors Khosla Ventures, Oak Investment Partners, and CalPERS Clean Energy & Technology Fund.

NanoH20 has been working on nanotechnology-enabled reverse-osmosis membranes for desalinating water (cleaning it to use) that are supposed to be more productive and use less energy than traditional desalination membranes. The problem with standard reverse osmosis is that it is energy-intensive, and that makes it costly.

For traditional desalination, large amounts of electricity is often used to pump water around and force it, under very high pressure, through membranes. The Pacific Institute estimates that electricity accounts for 44 percent of the cost of standard reverse-osmosis desalination, which is by far the single-largest expense.

NanoH2O says its membrane is much more permeable than the standard technology, which is the key to the less energy and lower costs needed to clean the water. The company has been working on desalination projects, including one with a water utility in the Cayman Islands called Water Authority Cayman and with the U.S. Navy Seawater Desalination Test Facility (SDTF) in Port Hueneme, Calif.

The company focuses on seawater desalination and says in its release on Monday that it will also target China, which it says will be one of the world’s largest markets for desalination technology. With this $40 million in equity funding and $20.5 million in credit facilities, NanoH20 says it is one of the most “highly funded water technology companies in the industry.”