Metalmark Uses Butterfly


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Mar 14, 2023

Metalmark Uses Butterfly

Metalmark's Tatama air purifier was inspired by nanostructures found in nature,

Metalmark's Tatama air purifier was inspired by nanostructures found in nature, like the metalmark ... [+] butterfly's wings.

The Tatama air purifier from Metalmark is inspired by the nanostructure of butterfly wings and organisms like the self-cleaning lotus flower.

The results? Beyond HEPA-grade filtration, the startup says, capturing 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns and larger, with a proprietary coating that captures volatile organic compounds. Once a month, Tatama destroys the collected material, reducing it to harmless air and water.

So instead of the typical hassle of changing filters every several months, Tatama filters are said to last up to five years or longer.

The Tatama air purifier by Metalmark

The Boston, Massachusetts, company (named after Metalmark, a family of butterflies) is taking preorders for the air purifier while touting a successful pilot at New England MedWaste. Metalmark plans to begin shipping units in 2023 at a price that's still being finalized.

"We have not heard of any filter that can last long like what we’re able to see in ours," says Metalmark Cofounder and CEO Sissu Liu.

The pilot was conducted in an office over a six-week period. High-definition data collected every 15 seconds showed rapid, significant reductions in airborne particles including PM 2.5, bacteria, mold and levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the company says.

New England MedWaste employees said the space "smelled noticeably better" too, Liu reports.

Sissu Liu, cofounder and CEO of Metalmark

Liu says Tatama (named after a Columbian national park that's a sanctuary for butterflies and other creatures) has been under development for five years. The startup is a Harvard University spinoff that most-recently won an honorable mention in a 2021 federal Cleaner Indoor Air During Wildfires Challenge.

In a world of climate and Covid-19 concerns, Liu says she expects indoor air quality and air purification to be a prominent topic for years to come.

Metalmark has received support from organizations including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, MassVentures and MassCEC.

The science behind Tatama's filter is another prominent topic. It uses a patent-pending system to destroy accumulated pollutants and clean the filter. Off-gassing during the process is scrubbed away by a proprietary catalyst, Liu says.

The self-cleaning feature extends the filter life for up to five years or more: 10 times the life of a traditional HEPA filter. "We could be looking at 60% reduction in the cost of having an air purifier," Liu says, when considering maintenance, operating costs and filter waste. And yes, HEPA filters can catch particles that contain coronaviruses.

At a White House summit earlier this year with Dr. Joseph Allen from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, it also was noted that "people spend up to 90% of their lives indoors. Therefore, healthy buildings play a critical role for healthy communities." Measures to improve indoor air quality include installing air cleaners.

The Tatama, optimized for a 1,000-square-foot area, is being targeted to places like universities, corporate buildings and medical facilities. New England MedWaste, where Metalmark's first pilot took place, is a regulated medical waste processing facility in Middleton, Massachusetts.

"The geographic targets are mainly in the U.S. to start and then to expand internationally into Europe and Asia," Liu says.

"... From our nanomaterials all the way to our systems, we’re producing it here. We’re pretty excited about that, so want to to see it adopted in the U.S. before we launch anywhere else."