Omnimist holds the IP rights to the technology and technical know-how, and is bringing commercial and domestic products to market across a range of applications.
The billion-dollar aerosol industry delivers about six billion aerosol cans used in automatic aerosol dispensing units worldwide every year. These units waste approximately 95 percent of the product they are meant to dispense into the atmosphere because they are incapable of producing the size of the droplets that will stay suspended in air. Of probably greater importance, they also release millions of tons of hydrocarbon propellants into the atmosphere and even greater quantities of VOCs and solvents each year.
“The aerosol can volume is about 50 percent petrol and 50 percent butane, with a trace of pyrethrum that is used to kill or drive insects away, and on top of that three to four times as much of piperonyl butoxide (PBO), which has been identified as a carcinogen and a cause of birth defects in mammals. The PBO makes pyrethrum work better, blocking the detox mechanism – in both insects and people. I got quite angry with this and started to look for ways of creating water-based airborne dispense that is as effective, without the horrors.”
As a team, Salvo has a strong background in ultrasonics, so team members started looking at an ultrasonic dispense technology, and saw a solution in a water-based spray.
The drip problem
It came to head during a discussion with the technical lead of one of the major sanitising companies in Singapore who asked how Innovators ‘solved the drip problem’. The drip problem is when the spray does not work efficiently and fluid gathers and dribbles down the front – a major failure if it EVER happens.
The solution lays in rethinking how the emitter element, a very cheap component used in lots of low cost humidifier products, works. The manufacturers of these devices make products that spray 10 to 20 microliters per second of the fluid.
“Every product that we’ve seen that attempted to enter this space is based on the assumption that you supply fluid, you spray fluid. And it stops there. So there is likely to be accumulation of excess fluid. But if you don’t supply fluid in excess, then you don’t maximise the spray. If you supply too little, you can be sure of spraying it, hence the 10 microliters that most of these products spray. If you supply just the right amount in just the right way, then the ultrasonic element will enthusiastically spray everything that it can. But you need to supply too much fluid to achieve that. Once you supply too much fluid, you have to do something with the excess, otherwise it will escape,”
Salvo used a fluid flow mechanism derived from a Victorian steam engine lubrication pump. The advantage of the pump is that the product does not have to have a reservoir above the dispenser. It does not rely on gravity. The fluid can be pumped around and Omnimist can make the product aesthetics any shape or form that the market requires.
Optimising the spray
The reason the Omnimist product is more effective than other aerosols in the market is that it sprays 80 to 100 microliters per second of fluid – four to 10 times more than the humidifiers it supercedes – and 90 to 95 percent of the fluid sprayed remain airborne because all of the spray is between 10 and 20 micrometre-sized droplets.
The emitter element usually sprays 10 to 20 microliters of fluid per second, but we wanted more. We want to take the market by storm with products that are significantly better in all regards, and cost no more.
Part of the optimisation goal is to ensure the maximum amount of sprayed fluid remains airborne.
Traditional products spray particles that are mostly too large to stay in the air, so there is a plume of particles, then they drop. About 90 to 95 percent of what an aerosol sprays is not airborne after a few seconds – and therefore not effective.
By changing the frequency of the oscillator that is spraying the fluid, Innovators was able to control the size of sprayed particles precisely.
“No particle in the stream that is sprayed out of the Omnimist is bigger than 20 microns or smaller than 8 microns. So the particles all remain airborne for a long time. It means we are able to spray 90, perhaps 95 percent less fluid than a traditional aerosol for the same effect.”
Some of the potential medical applications for the Omnimist unit are breathtaking in more ways than one. For example, the technology offers the low cost nebulised delivery of drugs from liquid form, dispensed in particle sizes that can target the airways for rapid absorption and highly directed treatment.
Reduced particle sizes penetrate further into the thorax and are more readily taken up into tissues. This would have an obvious and immediate life-changing effect on the 300m+ asthma sufferers worldwide by the precise delivery of corticosteroids to the right place, with no ineffectual ‘overspray’, suggesting the possibility of dramatically reduced overall dosage for equal or better outcomes.
In addition to the contribution to medical science the Omnimist technology can impact significantly on agriculture and other areas of science and technology, for instance in treating PSA in gold kiwifruit, or in low cost thin film optical coatings that improve screen performance in sunlight or reduce operational and manufacturing costs in electronics manufacturers and chip fabrication plants.
The technology has now been validated to the extent that we can start to develop the full potential in a wide range of established and new markets. Holding onto the IP rights and technical know-how allows Omnimist to undertake multiple market entries, resulting in wide penetration into many appropriate sectors.