Nanosized solution is making a big impact in Alberta’s oil sands
Unlocking the power of the sun with H2nanO’s sustainable water treatment technology
Unlocking the power of the sun with H2nanO’s sustainable water treatment technologyBy Jordan Flemming University Relations
The oil sands industry relies heavily on water for its extraction processes, resulting in significant volumes of contaminated water. For every barrel of oil, it takes two to five barrels of water to extract crude bitumen from oil sands. Although oil producers recycle this water in their extraction processes, ponds of contaminated water eventually form that can’t be utilized or returned to the environment.
Working closely with Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), an alliance of oil sands companies working with scientists, academics and innovators to make Canadian energy part of a sustainable environment, H2nanO is committed to addressing the pressing need for new, sustainable water treatment solutions.
The startup’s patented technology, SolarPass, harnesses sunlight to produce oxidants that degrade contaminants in process-affected water. This remediation can work within days to reduce aquatic toxicity — outperforming more energy-intensive and harsh chemical-dependent methods to improve water safety and reuse potential.
Zac Young, COO for H2nanO, believes Waterloo provided an ideal environment for incubating their technology. “The freedom to operate and maintain ownership of the intellectual property, the collaborative research relationships that the university fosters, the access to talent through the co-op program and Velocity’s entrepreneurial ecosystem helped us grow and navigate the transition from research to commercialization smoothly,” he says.
As the world seeks sustainable alternatives in industries noted for their environmental impact, H2nanO has emerged as a trailblazer, offering both effective water treatment and a tangible contribution to restoring the environment from the effects of oil extraction. Their journey from lab-based research to full-scale commercialization underscores the immense potential for visionary startups to shape a cleaner, greener future.
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is co-ordinated within the Office of Indigenous Relations.