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Stop to filter jugs: purify tap water with a new zero waste and natural solution.

L’histoire de LaVie

Two French entrepreneurs have developed a device able to naturally purify water in 15 minutes only. A zero waste purifier working with LEDs: stop to chlorine and its unpleasant taste and stop to organic pollutants. Let's go meet them.

Saadi and Pascal, co-inventors of LaVie

Pascal Nuti et Saadi Brahmi

Saadi Brahmi
Vaste expertise en génie mécanique
Launch of several successful renewable energy companies in France and North Africa

Pascal Nuti
Entrepreneur depuis sa vingtaine
Creation of several electric vehicle companies (France, Tunisia), including Eon Motors, commercialized in 2007

C’est l’histoire de deux amis du Sud de la France, des idées plein la tête, qui un beau jour ont décidé de s’associer pour monter leur entreprise, avec l’ambition de faire de l’innovation dans le domaine de l’écologie. Jusque-là, l’aventure pourrait sembler somme toute banale. Sauf qu’au fil de leurs expériences, Pascal Nuti et Saadi Brahmi ont fait une découverte qui pourrait révolutionner l’accès à l’eau potable dans le monde…

Verre LaVie

Everything started in 2015 where two guys, who met each other 10 years ago, shared projects related to electric mobility, recalls Pascal Nuti. At that time, my colleague was working for a solar panel company at the end of its life. We were willing to launch a war machine, innovation focused. The first idea that came through was to solve the World number 1 problem: getting access to drinking water. As we were rich enough from solar and energy experiences, we decided to fix the problem by using solar technology."

Solar solution for developing countries

The two partners then built Solable (for "solar" and "drinkable"). They started working on solar water heaters. "We finally realized that it would never work: we developed prototypes and won innovation awards but we finally ended up because adaptation to certain demands from Europe did not suit us," explains Pascal Nuti. Our research led us to reduce the size, as we were working on collective machines and we realized that developing countries, our main focus, could not afford to pay for it. We had to reduce the format and make the product accessible for everyone."

At this stage, colleagues were working on prototypes of 1-litre bottles and were starting solar concentration. We started by pasteurization, which consists of raising the water up to 60°C to remove bacteria," explains Pascal Nuti. You probably know that bacteria, in the developing world, is the number one problem, even though today chemical pollution is added on top of it."

By a sunny day in Aix-en-Provence, Pascal Nuti and Saadi Brahmi tried to "pasteurize" water with sun and drank it. We looked at each other on a silly way because the taste of water had changed. We knew pasteurization is not supposed to change the taste: it only kills the bacteria," said Pascal Nuti. The day after, calmly, we renewed the experience. A month later, we finally found out the reasons. Chlorine was destroyed by a part of the solar radiation and removing bad taste of the tap water in the process."

The experience has already been tested in Canada: "Scientists tried to remove chlorine with UV light but did not work properly and finally concluded it was dangerous," says the entrepreneur. The process degrades molecules, creating intermediates that can be even more dangerous than the original product. From our side, we make sure to achieve a total removal and by going through many testings we never found any dangerous products out." Does it mean the only thing to do is to put a bottle in the sun and wait a moment to get rid of all its bacteria and chlorine? "Yes, as far as you are 100% sure there is chlorine in the water. However, with no solar concentrator, it will take from 2 to 2.5 hours of direct sunlight to do it : it sounds complicated now to drink a water litre in Paris, New York or Shanghai!" exclaims the co-founder. And no one will try it if they are not informed and reassured."

"Artificial" version for developed countries

It is now obvious the two friends are willing to licence their discovery: "we thought people would say we are totally crazy because we want to patent the sun," laughs Pascal Nuti. This is for this reason and because we wanted to protect developing countries that we did not patent exactly what we have done , the action produced by an artificial light only. This is the technology we use for our purifier now. We went this way to avoid developing countries paying for royalties to get this invention.

Purificateur et bouteille LaVie

The process patented is the photolysis of chlorine by UV-A, which leads to a complicated and totally natural oxidation reaction that provides water purification.

Avec ce procédé, le chlore et ses dérivés disparaissent, les polluants organiques comme les pesticides et les traces de médicaments sont abattus, et les oligo-éléments sont préservés, promettent les entrepreneurs.

The idea of the two entrepreneurs was indeed at that time to create water purifiers working with artificial light, to sell them to developed countries, and to pay from their profits so that the solar version of their experience, much more accessible, could be deployed in developing countries. "The idea is to train someone and help him or her set up a business around this solar concentrator that treats water in 30 minutes, so that this solar solution can be multiplied, for example in Africa, and be marketed at 5 or 10 €, with micro-credit," says Pascal Nuti.

Nous sommes en 2017 et c’est décidé, le nom de leur entreprise, qui propose des purificateurs à lumière artificielle et s’adresse aux pays développés, s’appellera LaVie. Pascal Nuti et Saadi Brahmi mettent définitivement au point leurs purificateurs : un cylindre de traitement dans lequel, grâce à des LED, sont reproduits les UVA solaires, multipliés par 6. Il suffit de remplir une bouteille en verre, fournie avec celui-ci, avec de l’eau du robinet, de l’y insérer et de la fermer. L’étui détecte automatiquement la présence de la bouteille, s’allume et s’éteint au bout de 15 minutes. Selon les associés, l’avantage par rapport à une carafe filtrante est notamment que l’eau ne peut pas être contaminée par des bactéries, n’étant pas laissée à l’air libre, et le fait que les purificateurs LaVie fonctionnent sans filtre, ne nécessitent aucun entretien et ne génèrent aucun déchet. La lumière artificielle est programmée pour durer 50 000 heures, ce qui correspond à 200 000 litres d'eau traités, selon Pascal Nuti. Autrement dit, elle n’aura a priori jamais à être remplacée.

An award at CES in Las Vegas

A beautiful project, still it is necessary to talk about it and succeed in selling it, before launching into the pure and hard production: the two entrepreneurs then decide, at the end of 2017, to go to the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, a huge show dedicated to technological innovation in consumer electronics. There, they won an Award for their eco-sustainable water treatment process and even got noticed, according to Pascal Nuti, by large companies such as PepsiCo and Veolia. We had a prototype of a purifier and we experimented with the water of Las Vegas, one of the most 'rotten' in the world," says the entrepreneur. People were really surprised."

Saadi Brahmi and Pascal Nuti then launched a funding campaign on Kickstarter. They sell 500 purifiers to individuals, but also 500 to the French company Boulanger, which noticed their innovation in Las Vegas. "In mid-2018, we ended up making 1,000 prototypes that we delivered in the fall," says the entrepreneur. From all the places in the world where we delivered, whether in Colombia, Brazil, the United States and Europe, we had messages of congratulations."

Quelques mois plus tard, Boulanger les rappelle pour leur commander cette fois… 4000 à 5000 purificateurs. C’est le début de la transformation de l’entreprise, qui change tout à coup d’échelle. “Cela nous a posé des tas de problèmes, note Pascal Nuti. Nous n’étions pas prêts. Nous sommes restés pendant deux ans dans l’entreprise à deux pour tout concevoir.” L’équipe a depuis triplé. Elle fait fabriquer et assembler tout ce qu’elle peut localement, sauf la bouteille en verre, faite en Chine, faute d’autre solution trouvée pour ce type de verre actuellement. LaVie vend aujourd’hui ses produits via son site Web, mais ceux-ci sont également disponibles dans les enseignes Boulanger en France.

pascal Nuti sur le stand LaVie au CES 2022

CES 2022 - Pascal Nuti on the LaVie stand

The company is getting ready to launch a new fundraising round by the summer, focusing on its community of customers. Also on the agenda for the coming months: the launch of water fountains for homes, and others for professionals and communities. These fountains should have the advantage of creating chlorine in situ, chlorine intended in particular to clean them: "We'll be able to do without maintenance and therefore reduce prices in this area while increasing safety," says Pascal Nuti... Because today in communities, we have many water fountains for which the renters sometimes forget their maintenance obligations!" These fountains should be on the market by the end of 2021. The entrepreneurs are largely convinced: their business will be far from being a storm in a glass of water...

Why would you need to filter your water? The opinion of Pascal Nuti, co-founder of LaVie

"Si vous prenez une carte de France de l’eau potable, vous verrez qu'il y a une centaine de points en rouge, qui sont variables, tout simplement parce qu'on a des pollutions par exemple par les pesticides. On les retrouve dans des quantités qui sont mesurées, qui ne sont a priori pas dangereuses puisque l'État le prétend, sauf que l'État ne mesure jamais autre chose que la pollution élément par élément. Si par exemple on prend une eau de qualité avec plusieurs pesticides à la fois, personne n’est allé vérifier si l'absorption de ces trois éléments ensemble était cancérogène ou pas. Malheureusement, on appelle ça les cocktails de pesticides et tout le monde scientifique pense que c'est assez dangereux, voire très nocif. Mais si vous voulez mesurer toutes les conjugaisons de pesticides il vous faudrait un millénaire de travail !”

Interview by ID L'INFO DURABLE

LaVie Lambesc
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