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New Battelle Process Slashes Price of Useful But Expensive Chemical

A chemical once costing $100 a gram is now available for a fraction of that price - and in a more pure form - thanks to a new manufacturing process pioneered by Battelle and St. Louis-based Ferratec LLC.

The cheaper, improved potassium ferrate, (VI) (K2FeO4), sold under the trade name Ferratec brand potassium ferrate, takes the first step toward Ferratec's goal to provide this chemical at a price and quantity acceptable for new uses outside its traditional role as a lab chemical.

Ferratec brand potassium ferrate is now available from GFS Chemicals, of Powell, OH. Because of the scale-up work done by Ferratec and the Electrosynthesis Company in Lancaster, NY, it now can be manufactured in kg quantities. Ferratec brand potassium ferrate is available for about $2/g while potassium ferrate produced in more traditional ways costs as much as $100/g.

"I think that is a technical leap," said Andy Wolter, who leads the Ferratec company. "The modular electrochemical technology we use has led to a fully scalable manufacturing process. Until the Battelle process there was no good way to make it in bulk."

Unlike other potassium ferrate sources, Ferratec brand potassium ferrate is greater than 90 percent pure, contains no chlorides or other halogen impurities, and is stable so it can be stored for repeated use.

Potassium ferrate (VI) is a powerful oxidizer - like chlorine - but because it has been so expensive to produce, its use has been mostly limited to the odd laboratory experiment, despite its being known for nearly 300 years. Unlike chlorine, it has wonderful properties as an environmentally friendly chemical because it turns into rust in contact with water, said Spencer Pugh, vice president and manager of Industrial and International Markets for Battelle. With the price dramatically lowered, Michael McBride, director of sales and business development for the Catalog Div. at GFS Chemicals, said scientists will now be able to seriously examine potassium ferrate (VI) as a future biocide, as a powerful oxidizer in organic synthesis, and as a water treatment compound, especially as a flocculent to attract and help settle sediment and debris.

Ferratec was formed by the private investment and business incubation firm The Incubation Factory. The Incubation Factory is a St. Louis-based holding company with the exclusive license to manufacture and distribute potassium ferrate worldwide under the process developed with Battelle. Ferratec took Battelle's process and, working with R&D partner Electrosynthesis, scaled up the technique so that it could produce multi-kilograms of material per day instead of a few grams.

The Incubation Factory is a for-profit, "go to market" business and technology incubator specializing in high-growth business opportunities. Ferratec is one of three active commercialization initiatives between Battelle and the Incubation Factory.

As the world's largest independent research and development organization, Battelle provides innovative solutions to the world's most pressing needs through its four global businesses: Laboratory Management, National Security, Energy Technology, and Health and Life Sciences. It advances scientific discovery and application by conducting $5.6 billion in global R&D annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization. For more information, visit www.battelle.org.

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