CarboNet SimpleFloc™ vs. Old Technology: NanoNets™ & the Power of Less

With wastewater treatment chemicals having seen limited innovation in the last forty years, it's about time something new came along. Learn what improvements CarboNet is bringing to the old world of emulsion flocculants.

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Apple computers, makers of the famous brand MAC, ran a series of campaigns highlighting the differences and benefits of MAC vs. the competition, Microsoft PCs. After decades of Microsoft dominating the computing industry, Apple developed an entirely new technology that simplified life for the end consumer. MAC was cool because it was simple. PCs were boring and complicated. As it were, Microsoft became OLD technology and Apple was crowned NEW technology.  

In a different universe, that of water treatment chemicals, we at CarboNet see SimpleFlocTM and our NanoNetTM platform technology (“NanoNets”) as NEW technology. Let’s look closer at some of the improvements that CarboNet (NEW technology) is bringing to the world of emulsion flocculants (OLD technology) and water treatment.  

CarboNet SimpleFloc™ is Different—that’s the point

CarboNet SimpleFloc™ is neither a dry nor an emulsion polymer flocculant—it’s already made down. It is also NOT just a made-down solution polymer. Solution polymers have been tried before in the industry and did not work. If that’s all SimpleFloc™ was, we’d be selling a product that was over 15 times more expensive than the competition. But we don’t. In fact, we are more cost-effective, seamless for the operators, AND better for the planet. The reason? Our NanoNets.

Higher PAM efficacy with 2-3% active ingredient, and proud of it!

The most common polymers used in water treatment comprise of polyacrylamide (PAM), an oil-based active ingredient. PAM is commonly shipped in an inactive state as a dry granule, water in oil liquid emulsion, or brine dispersion. To save on shipping, liquid emulsion PAM manufacturers prepare the PAM molecules as tightly wound coils, to condense more PAM into a single container. However, for PAM to work in wastewater and generate flocs, those tightly wound coils still need to be unfolded (and hydrated). PAM concentrations of liquid emulsions and brines can vary from 20 up to 50, percent, but are generally between 35 and 45 percent. 

Once PAM is shipped to a given treatment site, operators use make-down systems that dilute PAM with a freshwater source (0.1-0.5 percent product weight by volume) to unfold and hydrate the polymer on site before adding it to a waste stream.  In some cases, operators will dose an emulsion or brine polymer directly into a waste stream with the goal of unfolding in situ. This is also referred to as “dosing neat”. Whether made down or dosing neat, the toughest challenge for operators is generating consistent and successful unfolding of PAM molecules. Why? The result is an unreliable and inconsistent chemical performance that can be problematic and/or ineffective in water treatment.

SimpleFloc™ was developed to address the consistency issues associated with PAM and make life easier for operators and the planet. SimpleFloc™ can be plugged directly into a water treatment system, and the product injected is a consistent, low-cost, and powerful chemical. The key is that the PAM in SimpleFloc™ is already completely unfolded and stable. As a result, SimpleFloc™ has a higher PAM efficacy than its liquid emulsion counterparts (made down or dosed neat).  Only 2-3% of active PAM is needed in our formulations. Our secret? NanoNets!

The NanoNet Effect—Less is More

There are several common constituents in wastewater and wastewater treatment, that impede the unfolding and efficacy of PAM. These include water hardness, high coagulant usage, oxidizers, elevated temperatures, and small suspended solids (fines) - to name a few. In these instances, PAM efficacy is diminished, and operators need to use more to compensate. Overdosing PAM is a common practice in water treatment.

Our proprietary NanoNets enable PAM to unfold and be fully active in SimpleFloc™.  When applied to a waste stream, the NanoNets neutralize the constituents that interfere with PAM performance. As a result, SimpleFloc™ only uses 1/6th to 1/10th the amount of PAM otherwise needed to treat a given waste stream.

Less really is best.

Thanks to the low amounts of PAM, the use of SimpleFloc™ translates into savings of millions of pounds of petrochemicals. Along with that, the use of SimpleFloc™, as compared to liquid emulsion polymers, leads to substantial CO2 emission reductions for our customers.

What Makes a Good Flocculant: Why Unfolding Matters

In theory, dosing an emulsion or dispersion polymer neat should provide the same plug-and-play ability as SimpleFloc™. However, this is NOT the case. When dosing an emulsion polymer neat (fast inversion or not) into wastewater, operators are relying on turbulence, energy, and flow to unfold the emulsion polymer in situ. Timing becomes an important element, as PAM must be fully unfolded before hitting the flocculation zone in a system. Operators who dose emulsion polymers neat are effectively replacing the controlled unfolding environment of a make-down system with a variable and uncontrolled system. 

Furthermore, when change happens in the water treatment system (increased flow rate, higher solids content, temperature change etc..) operators must now account for other factors that impede the performance of PAM. Typically, this leads to overdosing or adjusting injection points to compensate AND maintain the “sweet spot” of activity in the flocculation zone. While the make-down system has been removed, the headache of polymer unfolding persists and is now even more complicated to fix.

Some problems that may result from dosing PAM neat:

  • Operators must carefully manage to tight dosing windows 
  • Solids or oil carryover 
  • Grainy or gummy flocs from overdosing 
  • High sludge volumes 
  • Inconsistent performance 
  • Downstream fouling of filters or equipment
  • Post-system flocculated solids

Neat polymers are also limited in the type of treatment system they are effective in. Systems with small retention times, poor mixing, highly variable waters, and variable flow rates all cause misses of the flocculation zone and require overdosing to compensate. Overdosing isn’t just a cost issue. It also leads to PAM residuals in waste streams that can cause downstream solids to floc, plug filter media, or foul downstream processes. 

By comparison, SimpleFloc™ works immediately once dispersed in water. Flocculation with SimpleFloc™ is rapid and effective and dosing and performance are consistent, making it easy for an operator to control their processes and budgets. The low polyacrylamide content in SimpleFloc™ prevents slugs of polymer from unfolding post the treatment system and fouling downstream operations. Because SimpleFloc™ is already unfolded, it is a true plug-and-play solution. No “chasing water” or overdosing required!

Diagram, engineering drawingDescription automatically generated
Figure 1: PAM dynamics in a continuous treatment system. The active PAM in a system from dosing neat polymers varies depending on site flow rate, mixing dynamics, and size of the flocculation zone (top panel). If flow rates increase, neat polymer concentration must also be adjusted to accommodate, or active polymer will miss the flocculation zone (grey line, top panel). Fully unfolded polymer preparations like SimpleFloc™, or diluted emulsions/brine dispersions, supply a consistent active polymer dose in the flocculation zone and have predictable dosing (bottom panel). SimpleFloc™ requires less active polymer to cause flocculation than any concentrated emulsion or dispersion (red line vs black line; bottom panel)

There’s a Reason It’s Viscous!

SimpleFloc™ is viscous by design. Though it’s made of over 90% water, the viscosity is an indicator of full PAM activation. Because SimpleFloc™ is mostly water and the polymer is already unfolded, SimpleFloc™ does not readily separate and isn’t sensitive to humidity or condensation. Thus, SimpleFloc™ can be delivered in ISO tanks or other large storage containment without mixing equipment. It is also well suited for a wide range of environmental storage conditions.

Dosing vs. Cost

The math is simple. The cost of SimpleFloc™ on per gallon basis is roughly 3 to 4 times LESS than emulsion polymers. However, the product is often dosed 1:1 as compared to emulsion polymers.

While certain applications may require more SimpleFloc™ (than an emulsion polymer), it is still more cost-effective.  Depending on the application and type of wastewater, the latest version of SimpleFloc™ is dosed anywhere from one to three times more than emulsion polymers. That’s it. Not 15 times or 30 times, just 3. This is particularly the case with new and improved versions of the product. In many applications, the product can be dosed the same as an emulsion polymer.

We are only getting started

Prior to NanoNets, the water treatment industry had undergone incremental improvements in flocculation technology—primarily around oil-free dispersions, manipulating polymer building blocks, and making emulsion polymers marginally more concentrated.

None of these include the disruptive technology of NanoNets. One of the biggest benefits of the NanoNet platform is our ability to rapidly optimize, iterate, and improve at scale. The result for our valued customers is that we are continually making our product more cost-effective AND ever better for the planet (Less PAM)!

New more powerful versions coming soon!

In 2023, we will release an updated version of SimpleFloc™ (v3) AND a cationic line of SimpleFloc™. These products have been extensively tested in the field and the results are exciting – almost as thrilling as the recent World Cup match. But in the case of CarboNet’s SimpleFloc™, it won’t be a close game when it comes to performance, quality, and price.  CarboNet is NEW technology and a step-change in innovation for flocculant technology.

If you want to transition your water treatment systems or those of your customers from old technology to new technology, please reach out

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