Velocity Science company partners with Canadian Space Agency

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Morteza AhmadiVelocity Science startup Qidni Labs has caught the attention of the Canadian Space Agency with their nano-filters that stop viruses and bacteria in the air, liquids and foods.

The Canadian Space Agency awarded the company a $200,000 grant to continue its prototyping and development work.

"We have been working on a very unique nano-filtration technology,” said trained physicist Morteza Ahmadi, the startup’s founder and chief executive officer.

The possibility that these nano-filters will be used in space is serendipitous.

Qidni Labs initially designed them as a dialysis alternative for people experiencing kidney failure. Currently machines are used to remove the buildup of toxins from the blood, a costly and time-consuming process for patients.

They believe their nano-filters, which act as implants and filter the blood, could replace dialysis, freeing patients from machine-based treatment and improving survival rates.

Chemistry is used to change the properties of substances down to a near subatomic level to give them new characteristics. Qidni Labs is making super tiny pores in a material the startup does not want to identify until it has patent protection.

The size of the smallest bacteria is within 100 to a few hundred nanometres. The size of the smallest virus would be within a few ten nanometres,” he says. “So if we can make pores smaller than that size, let's say we can make pores within the one-to-10-nanometre range, then you would be able to block the passage of bacteria and viruses with your filter.”

A nanometre is one-billionth of a metre. The diameter of pores in nano-filters ranges from one to 10 nanometres.

Qidni Labs logo

Currently, the filters are about the size of a coin, but after more research and testing Qidni Labs hopes to have the filters in larger casings that can be used in non-medical applications, such as space.

Canadian Space Agency logo

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) believes the filters could be handy for cleaning the air inside a spacecraft, keeping fluids clean inside radar systems and ensuring astronaut food is free of viruses and bacteria.

Space is a harsh environment and making devices and instruments suitable for this type of environment is not easy,” said Ahmadi. “So we want to be able to control not only the pore size of the filter in the nanometre range, but also make them robust.”

The CSA issued a call for funding applications under its Space Technology Development Program, which supports the design of new space technology to build that sector of the economy and support future Canadian and international space missions.

Qidni Labs plans to have a completed prototype by the time the 2015-2016 grant ends at which point they intend to move towards commercialization.

The company employs five people who work out of the Velocity Science lab. Velocity Science, a partnership between the Faculty of Science and Velocity, is an entrepreneurship program focused on enabling students to initiate and develop world-class life and physical science startups by providing them with the right tools and resources.