South Australian SME Ziltek teamed up with CSIRO to develop a handheld soil contamination detector, to underpin their expansion into a new environmental remediation service.

The challenge

Improving waste remediation technologies

Ziltek accelerated their business growth through a collaboration with CSIRO to develop a new technology to measure petroleum hydrocarbons in soil.

Ziltek is a rapidly growing small business specialising in environmental remediation products and services, including treating contaminated soils, mine tailings and industrial by-products. Ziltek is committed to innovation and continuous improvement of its remediation technologies in order to offer better, cheaper and more sustainable services than its competitors.

Ziltek identified an opportunity to introduce a new service offering, but "...The specialist skills and high-tech equipment required to develop it successfully were beyond our capability," said CEO Dr Richard Stewart.

Our response

Embedding a researcher to develop a new technology

Ziltek turned to our SME Engagement Centre to connect them to the expertise they needed. CSIRO has significant expertise in advanced analytical methods to detect contaminants in soils, so our principal scientist Les Janik and spectroscopist Sean Forrester were embedded in the company to develop the new technology.

"The CSIRO team had the skills we required and fitted in perfectly with our company's culture," said Dr Stewart.

The results

A new tool to detect hydrocarbons at remediation sites

Together, CSIRO and Ziltek developed a new device called RemScan, which uses an infrared signal to directly measure petroleum hydrocarbons in the soil, giving a result in around 20 seconds. RemScan can be used as a quick in-field screening tool to characterise contaminated sites, to validate spill clean-up areas, or to monitor ongoing contaminant degradation. CEO Dr Richard Stewart said the new technology would allow his team to make real-time decisions at client sites, reduce laboratory analysis costs and minimise project delays.

Ziltek has an exclusive license to the RemScan method and is now looking at broader global opportunities enabled by the technology.

This project was supported by the Enterprise Connect Researchers in Business program, which was an Australian Government initiative which provided funding to support the placement of researchers directly into businesses to help them develop and implement new commercial ideas.

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