The filter technology will incorporate Argonide's NanoCeram alumina fibres, which have a diameter of 2 nm and a surface area of 500-600 m2/g. In aqueous solution the fibres are electropositive and they attract and retain electronegative particles.

The company says that it has already demonstrated a filter that can remove 99.9999% of viruses from drinking water at flow rates hundreds of times faster than a virus-rated membrane. The filters are also less susceptible than membranes to clogging by small particles.

In phase II of the SBIR programme, which is due to last two years, Argonide will develop a working prototype filter with low weight and energy consumption. The company will also investigate regenerating the filter for reuse.

Argonide developed NanoCeram fibres in collaboration with the Design Technology Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, US. The company plans to sell filter discs for use in biotech and life science laboratories by the fourth quarter of 2002.