Canadian Manufacturing

Mitacs internship program funding Zentek’s air filter

by CM Staff   

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Mitacs is funding the research through an internship program meant to progress advanced manufacturing opportunities.

GUELPH — Zentek, with the help of university students from across the country, is involved with a new tool to fight against the spread of COVID-19 as Canadians head indoors this winter: a coated, low-energy air filter that effectively deactivates the virus on contact.

Zentek Ltd.’s patent pending ZenGUARD™ technology, was first applied to surgical face masks at the height of the pandemic, is now on the verge of making indoor air quality purer and safer by coating the air filters already used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, in both residential and industrial buildings.

The research is being propelled through an internship program funded by Mitacs — a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and provides students with unique opportunities to work on real-world projects. Zentek is working with several Mitacs interns from universities across Canada, including the University of Guelph, and the compound behind ZenGUARD was originally invented by Mitacs intern Dr. Seyyedarash Haddadi, a researcher at University of British Columbia Okanagan.

“The magic of this coating is that it’s incredibly safe, it effectively kills all viral and bacterial pathogens, and it’s green,” said Zentek CEO Greg Fenton, explaining that his company’s disruptive technology — which raised $33 million in funding in January 2022 and is currently completing phase two testing through the Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC) program — is an elegantly simple solution. Unlike other air filtration systems that use ionization technology or ultraviolet light, ZenGUARD doesn’t require expensive equipment or consume more energy, he said.

In June, Zentek opened an industrial-scale antimicrobial production facility in Guelph. As it moves forward with its growth strategy — reportedly doubling in size this past year to 28 employees — it has plans to commercialize as many as five products in the next three to five years, said Fenton.

In the meantime, as part of the rigorous ISC testing of its new HVAC filter technology, Zentek must demonstrate the safety, efficacy and energy efficiency of its product and is “passed phase one with flying colours,” he added. Results from phase two testing, which involves measuring air quality in a mock classroom environment created at the National Research Council, are expected imminently, and the company is currently working with air filtration partners to commercialize the technology.

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