1. The Power of the Vortex (Archived)

The Vortex: The Power of Gravity

the vortex saves energy, eliminates chemicals and generates 250,000 jobs within a decade 

The Market

The world market for water treatment and the production of potable water represents one of the safest investments ever. The commodity of water is indispensable for society and industry. The availability of clean water is increasingly under pressure as population increases and consumption per capita rises incessantly. Water used to be free of charge. The last few decades has turned water into a profitable business with a secure cash flow and rising costs to the consumer.

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The world market for water and waste water treatment surpassed the $200 billion mark in 2009. China leads this market with an estimated annual growth of 17 percent. Treating water sewage is valued at $40 billion with over 13,000 companies worldwide, driven by long term service contracts. The model of water treatment so far has involved sedimentation and oxidation, which means settling solids out and pumping air in, and a subsequent chemical treatment. The annual volume of chemicals used to treat water in the

US exceeds 10 million tons. As world demand for water increases, so does demand for chemicals.

The consumption of bottled water increased by an average of 12 percent per year each year over the past decade with an estimated 22 billion dollar in sales. One of the fastest growing niches in this quest to expand drinking water supply is the conversion of salt and grey water into drinking water through reverse osmosis. The capital expenditure for this technology exceeds 2.2 billion dollars annually but is expected to grow another 50% over the next four years. Aguas de Barcelona (Spain), part of the GDF Suez Group (France), is planning the biggest installation of this type, investing over 1 billion dollars, thus liberating Barcelona from a chronic water shortage.

The Innovation

It is within the context of the world market for water that we have to assess the arrival of an extraordinary simple innovation: the vortex. The vortex has the capacity to dramatically increase efficiency in water treatment, cutting costs while generating local jobs. This natural phenomenon could one day replace chemicals and membranes, and upset the existing cash flows of traditional suppliers that have looked safe. The technology platform of the vortex is inspired by the observation that dirty water cleanses itself as a river moves downstream. The continuous swirling movement forces air in and out of the water, discouraging and stimulating micro-organisms.

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Two Swedish inventors, the development engineer Curt Hallberg and his colleague Morten Oveson, translated their observations into a mathematical model and then created a simple device that emulates the movement of water in a vortex with predictable results. They continued their venture to create Watreco AB based in Malmö. Watreco AB was elected the Swedish GreenTech company of the year in 2009. This
company is more than green – it changes the business model of water. The power of the vortex rests in the predictability of the laws of physics, where air particles are dragged to the center, from where air is sucked out. The energy source for this process may be simply gravity, which is guaranteed to power the device 24 hours per day! Gone are chemicals, gone are membranes, and energy consumption is minute.

The First Cash Flow

The inventors realized the broad spectrum of applications for their vortex device and searched for the first obvious market entry close to home, which was soon identified as ice making. The hand-made vortex generator achieved beneficial results: energy savings and crystal clear ice. Water includes air, dissolved in micron-size bubbles. The vortex removes this air, and since air acts as an insulator, the resulting air-free water freezes faster. Air-free ice is crystal clear and cracks much less readily. When applied to ice hockey rinks, advertising signs beneath the ice remain visible all season, thus increasing publicity revenues. Since there is no air in the ice, aeroxic bacteria that typically grow in ice like E.coli and Salmonella cannot survive. Most of the prominent Scandinavian ice rinks have since adopted the technology, resulting in a financial payback within months, not years.

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The second niche market that has generated cash flow for Watreco AB is the golf course. A golf course may need up to one million gallons of water a day. To save water, surfactants are added to the water so that it penetrates faster into the greens. If the water has been pre-treated by the vortex machine, no chemicals are needed, reducing water requirement by 20 to 30 percent. This is a case where the vortex actually makes chemicals redundant. A third niche market is the removal of algae from stable water

bodies including swimming pools, which are typically treated with chemicals like chlorine.

The Opportunity 

While hockey rinks and golf courses are niche markets, the experience gained in these sectors prepared Curt Hallberg and his team for growth markets including industrial water treatment and desalination. The trial units of the vortex machine in the Canary Islands demonstrated that its treatment of salt water again permits the elimination of air, which subsequently eliminates the problem of biofilms. Biofilms grow on membranes, reducing the membraneʼs efficiency. This forces the closure of the desalination plantʼs reverse osmosis installation every fortnight to chemically remove biofilms. This increases maintenance costs (via an additional chemical requirement) and reduces the plantʼs efficiency (since shutdown periods require back up) as well as requiring further capital for replacement membranes (since the life of a membrane is reduced). If there is no air in the water, then the aeroxic bacteria are excluded. If a vortex but no chemical is used, then the life expectancy of the membrane increases. In fact the energy cost of one cubic meter of drinking water drops from 2.4 to 1.0 kiloWatt per hour.

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These are only a few of the applications of the vortex that have been realized, but it is expected that more will be revealed soon. However what we know today confirms that the vortex machine results in reduced running costs, energy saved, chemicals eliminated and existing investments generating higher return. The challenge for mainstream industries is that the successful integration of the vortex into existing facilities requires a new core competence: fluid dynamics. It will now be up to General Electric and Nitto Denko to take us out of the box. In the mean time, entrepreneurs around the world can create a new competitive model that generates jobs locally anywhere in the world.

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 The Power of Gravity

by Markus Haastert, Anne Kathrin Kuhlemann, Malte Plewa

Background: What are vortexes and how do they function?

Most rivers and creeks (at least those outside of industrial centers) are surprisingly clean without applying any human-made filtering system. Even in big cities like Berlin it is possible, although not necessarily recommended, to swim in rivers. How is this possible?

Water cleans itself with the help of currents and vortexes. When water drains from a bathtub, one can see very well how such vortexes develop. Using the power of vortexes, fish are able to stay in one point in the middle of a fast floating river. Water enters their jaw and leaves them by their gills in the form of a vortex, which gives them the necessary stability.

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Vortexes can clean water, as their rotational speed is higher at the bottom than at the top. In this way, particles are sucked down the vortex and can leave the water by a vacuum created at the end. Furthermore, the water is set into a chaotic state. The constant swirl presses air out of the water and sucks it back in, so that microorganisms are stimulated or die.

A few years ago a group of scientists developed the idea to reproduce such vortexes artificially to use the natural potential of the water.

Based on the ideas of Viktor Schauberger, who had the opinion that nature actually contains all solutions for anthropogenically created problems, and who developed formulas which can calculate that, a group of Swedish scientists developed a tube in the form of a vortex which imitates the natural movement of water.

This technology is not to be confused with expensive vortexes that dubious websites promote to customers, propagating that they would “harmonize”, “revitalize” or bring back the water to a “virgin state”. On the internet one can read the most bizarre promises about vortexes. These attempts of fraud should however not discourage people to realize the real potential the physical use of vortexes has.

Innovation: from ice rinks to energy 

Vortexes have astonishing characteristics – they can, depending on the method used, either supply water with oxygen or remove oxygen from the water and filter particles from the it.

The first artificial vortexes were built manually in 2004. They were, however, not used for water purification but in a completely different area – on ice rinks.

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As the vortexes can pump oxygen bubbles out of the water, crystal clear ice with higher density can be made. Usually, ice contains air in tiny bubbles. Air is a natural insulation. Vortexes remove this air, so that the water freezes more quickly. Because of the reduced freezing-time, less energy is needed. Air-free ice is also much more stable1. As the ice is transparent, advertisements can be installed under the ice which can bee seen from above. In that way, income could be generated with the innovation. (watch video here)

But the potential of vortexes was not only identified in Swedish hockey stadiums. Also in the construction business an ever growing number of vortexes are used. In this context, vortexes are also used for the preparation of cement. The quantity of air bubbles is reduced, and in that way the hardness and stability of the cement is increased2. Numerous companies around the globe are already promoting this technology.

Another rather unconventional area of application for the all-round-talents is on golf courses. Nowadays, a usual court needs up four million liters of water everyday. Often, chemicals are added to the water which reduce the surface tension, so that the water infiltrates the ground more quickly. Using a vortex, chemicals become unnecessary and the amount of water needed can be reduced by 20 to 30 percent. In this context, vortexes can really replace chemicals.

Vortexes can also remove algae from standing water bodies, such as ponds or pools, which are usually treated with chemicals, such as chlorine.

And even for energy generation vortexes can be used. In Switzerland, Austria, Germany and other countries, water-vortex-power plants have been build and generate almost completely CO2-neutral electricity. This technology is actually very simple. Water from a river flows into a cement-barrel, in which a vortex is placed at the other end. The vortex starts to move through the water and generated electricity. This technology is simple, climate-friendly and environmentally soun3. A model project from Switzerland shows how clean energy can be produced and simultaneously a habitat for aquatic organisms can be created. Formerly impassable cataracts can no be passed, as th vortexes move very slow and terraces are formed in the river. The biodiversity around the power plant has continuously been increasing since its installation in 2009. (watch video here)

Also in thermal energy production vortexes are used in order to filter iron particles from the water which enter it in the process of energy production.

Potential: the future of the drinking water?

In less than ten years, a niche-technology for ice rink has developed into a modern way of environmentally friendly energy production.

An interesting question is now, if one can really produce clean water using these vortexes, to increase the availability of drinking water. At the moment research is going on to find out if vortexes can be used in sewage plants.

Sewage is usually enriched with air to provide the necessary oxygen to the microorganisms which they need to decay organic matter. The pumped air also leads to a mixing so that microorganisms get into contact with the organic material they are supposed to decay. 30 to 75 percent of the energy costs of sewage plants result form this artificial air supply.

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First experiments have shown that by a targeted use of the vortex-technology, water can be enriched with the needed oxygen. This has the potential to reduce the energy consumption of sewage plants drastically.

One of the fastest growing areas of the water technology sector is the transformation of saltwater into drinking water, using reverse osmosis. The investment volume has been estimated to reach more than 18 billion US$ in the next five years4.

The largest plant applying this technology cost more than one billion US$ and is located in Barcelona. The plant is able to transform 200.000m³ of saltwater daily. Vortexes are used in this plant to solve the problem of biofilm. Biofilm grows on filters, which reduced their efficiency. This leads to a close down of reverse osmosis plants every two weeks to remove the biofilm chemically. This increases the costs and reduces the efficiency. Vortexes remove the air from the water and thus destroy the habitat of the bacteria.

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Water purification is an immense business around the globe.

The global water consumption increases twice as fast as the world population grows. It has been estimated that the worldwide water consumption doubles every 20 years5. Between 2010 and 2015 the global investments in water supply and sewage treatment will rise to 145 billion US$6.

More research will be necessary to assess if vortexes can really replace chemicals in the drinking water production. Sporadically, they are already used in purification and treatment systems. If attempts to develop a water purification technology which is independent from chemicals and complicated filter systems, the water supply of remote areas which suffer from water shortages can be revolutionized. In that way, waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid could be successfully tackled.


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1 Pythgoras Kepler System 2012.
2 Vortex Hydra 2013.—the–vortex–concrete- mixing- system_50c13.html
3 Daum 2013.
4 BCC Reasearch 2012. membranes-and- components-to-reach-81-billion-by-2018
5 Best Water Technology 2014. h2o/Seiten/Wasser-der-Weltmarkt.aspx
6 World Health Organization 2012.


Gravity Power Module Demo

Small-scale demonstration of the Gravity Power Module (GPM), an in-ground energy storage system.