ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Aqua Membrane’s novel water-filtration technology could soon help Micron Technology Inc. significantly lower water and energy consumption throughout the semiconductor’s global manufacturing operations.
Idaho-based Micron, a publicly traded giant in the semiconductor industry, announced a joint investment Thursday in the local water-purification company in partnership with Boston-based Clean Energy Ventures. The companies didn’t disclose the amount committed, but Aqua Membranes CEO Craig Beckman said it will help speed the startup’s efforts to adapt its technology for use in the semiconductor industry and other industrial markets.
Aqua Membrane’s filtration product allows users to pump a lot more water at much lower cost through home, commercial and industrial purification systems. That can immensely cut down on the amount of water used in manufacturing, while significantly reducing energy consumption to purify, manage and move water through systems.
“Micron uses a lot of water, so it’s very focused on re-use and conservation,” Beckman said. “It’s pushing hard to adapt new technologies for more sustainable, high-purity water production.”
Micron ranks as the world’s fourth-largest semiconductor manufacturer. It’s focused on memory and storage products for data management, employing about 40,000 people at 13 manufacturing sites and 14 laboratories in 17 countries.
Its global operations consume about 55 million cubic feet of water per year, equivalent to annual consumption of about 450,000 U.S. households, said Micron Director of Sustainability Marshall Chase.
“We need a lot of ultra-pure water to manufacture semiconductors, and we often operate in water-constrained environments,” Chase told the Journal. “… Aqua Membranes’ technology can help us manage, reduce and limit our water footprint.”
The company recently launched a yearslong sustainability strategy to invest up to $1 billion in water- and non-carbon energy-saving production, encouraging the new partnership with Aqua Membranes, said Micron Director of Venture Capital Andrew Byrnes.
“We can wait for new technologies to emerge, or we can be pro-active to help pull them into the market faster,” Byrnes said. “We explored more than 100 technology startups for investment, and Aqua Membranes bubbled up to the top.”
Aqua Membranes produces novel spiral-wound membranes that provide more internal space for a lot more water to pass through filters. It’s a drop-in replacement for today’s spiral-wound membranes, which use closely weaved netting that impedes water flow and leads to fouling, or biofilm buildup, requiring users to frequently replace them.
The company employs 10 people at a 14,000-square-foot facility in the north I-25 industrial corridor. Clean Energy Ventures, which joined Micron on the new investment, previously committed $2.1 million to Aqua Membranes.
The company will use the new funding to ramp up production capacity, possibly hiring up to eight more employees over the next year, Beckman said.