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Nanobubbles may be tiny, but they have big potential when used successfully in sectors such as irrigated agriculture, aquaculture and water treatment. What’s hampering their wide-scale adoption, however, is cost. They are expensive to generate.

That’s a problem NanobOx founders, Dr Mohammad Reza Ghaani and Dr John Favier, say their novel, nanobubble-based technology for low-cost water aeration has solved.

Bubbles play a significant role in maintaining levels of dissolved oxygen in process waters — think fish tanks — and nanobubbles are particularly attractive because they have an oxygen transfer efficiency rate of about 85 per cent. This compares with just 2-3 per cent for bigger bubbles. Aerating a home fish tank doesn’t cost a lot, but in a commercial context it accounts for about 20 per cent of the operating costs in aquaculture, for example.

NanobOx acts as a molecular filter increasing the concentration of oxygen in nanobubbles made from air by a factor of three

—  John Favier

“The energy cost of generating bubbles of any size in water is in inverse proportion to the size of bubbles produced; the smaller the bubbles, the higher the energy cost,” Favier says. “Standard methods of generating nanobubbles require kilowatts of power. Our technology only uses a few watts of battery power and can be operated off-grid using renewable energy.


“It is also environmentally benign, chemical free and can boost yield and lower input costs in both agriculture and aquaculture. It has value for any bio process that requires oxygen as an input. NanobOx acts as a molecular filter increasing the concentration of oxygen in nanobubbles made from air by a factor of three. So, we provide the highest efficiency of any method of aeration, nanobubble or otherwise. Our nanobubble generators have no moving parts, are self-cleaning and work equally well in clean or dirty, solids-laden water. Our technology is highly scalable, can oxygenate water at high flow rates and can be operated underwater, which is a unique feature.”

Ghaani, now an assistant professor in the school of engineering at TCD, developed the company’s core technology while working as a postdoctoral researcher at UCD. Favier, who is no stranger to the start-up world (NanobOx is his third) has a background in agricultural and food process engineering R&D and B2B technology business development.

Development of the technology has cost in the order of €500,000 to date, funded by grants and equity investment

NanobOx will initially focus on the agriculture and aquaculture sectors and is running international field trials with a view to a full market launch in 2024. Favier says the company’s low energy cost nano-aeration will radically reduce the operating costs and carbon footprint of aquaculture while its use in irrigated agriculture will increase crop yields and environmental sustainability and reduce the amount of fertilisers and chemicals required.

“Nanobubbles are so small that the oxygen gets easily into the plant roots,” he says. “The bubbles also attract nutrients and transport them into the plant roots, so plants grow faster with a higher yield. Our ambitions are global. We want to have a NanobOx on every irrigation line.”

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Development of the technology has cost in the order of €500,000 to date, funded by grants and equity investment. Enterprise Ireland has supported the venture with a commercialisation grant while the company has also been through the Bord Iascaigh Mhara Aquatech Innovation Studio programme run by aquaculture accelerator, Hatch. NanobOx has recently completed an initial investment round of €900,000 with Irish investors led by Yield Lab.

NanobOx is a plug-and-play solution and the generators will be made in Ireland with the prospect of significant job creation over time, Favier says.

“The addressable market for our technology is sizeable, international, and runs into billions of euro,” he says. “The market has grown over the last decade and is beginning to accelerate as the advantages of nanobubbles have been proven. Use of nanobubbles by industry up to now has been hampered by limitations on scale-up as well as problems with cost, fouling and inconsistent performance with nanobubble generators. Our solution successfully addresses all of these issues.”