Shreya Dave thought her PhD research had no practical applications. It involved molecular filtration membranes made of graphene oxide—which is cheaper and less prone to degrading than the polymers and ceramics used today—but her method was too expensive for the water industry.
Then an article in Nature convinced her that the technique could save massive amounts of energy in the industrial processes used to separate chemicals for food, beverages, drugs, and fuel. These processes, it turns out, account for 12 percent of all US energy consumption.
Dave is now the CEO of Via Separations. The technology she and her team designed is meant to replace the current system for separating chemical compounds, which basically amounts to boiling. Dave believes that widespread adoption of Via’s filtration material could eliminate anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of the energy used in such industrial processes.
Her company is currently focusing on the food and beverage industry, but Dave thinks if she can prove that the technology is scalable and cost-effective in one industry, that will be the key to succeeding in others.