Energy-saving disinfection systems

Air Quality Research Ltd (AQR) partnered with the National Measurement Laboratory (NML), hosted at LGC, to improve the efficiency of its chemical-free and energy-saving water treatment technology, and widen its potential use in new markets.

Posted on: 16/08/2023

AQR, which is based at Sci-Tech Daresbury, develops energy-saving disinfection systems for producing safe and clean water that use no added chemicals. It partnered with the NML, hosted at LGC, to better understand the suite of radicals generated through its technology and unlock new revenue streams.


AQR’s disinfection process is achieved by generating a suite of charged radical species, including hydroxyls, which are widely recognised to be nature’s most effective disinfection agents.

In chemistry, a radical is an atom, molecule or ion that has one unpaired electron and hydroxyls are typically used to eliminate odours and breakdown volatile organic compounds.

AQR knew its novel disinfection process generated a suite of charged radicals. But measuring the exact presence of hydroxyls was challenging due to their reactive and short-lived nature, which was preventing the business from making further product enhancements.

It had previously tried to use conventional analytical methods, for instance standard mass spectrometry. However, while these studies confirmed the disinfection process produced charged radical species, they did not enable specific identification or quantitative measurement of hydroxyls when used in isolation.


AQR partnered with the NML through the Innovate UK Analysis for Innovators programme to gain access to innovative and advanced measurement and analytical technologies and expertise.

The aim was to better understand the treatment process and improve its efficiency. This involved investigating two secondary measurement methods that had the potential to indirectly detect radicals.

The first was the use of a spin trapping molecule, which would bind to the hydroxyl radical, to enable better detection in mass spectrometry testing.

The second was the use of a radical ‘reactant compound’; a compound that would only react under the measurement conditions with a hydroxyl radical. Again, the detection would be via mass spectrometry.

This multi-faceted approach enabled the determination of multiple chemicals simultaneously, at low levels and in real-time, giving AQR a greater understanding of the disinfection process.


The ability to prove that its technology generated hydroxyl radicals as part of a suite of disinfection radicals has given the business confidence to bid for higher value commercial contracts and has opened up new markets.

The feasibility to treat raw surface water to drinking water quality requirements was previously considered a longer-term goal but has since been successfully proven due to the confidence provided by working with NML. This made a significant difference in increasing the value of AQR’s technology by opening up markets with potential revenues of at least £280 million in the UK alone.

– Dr Rayne Longhurst, Operations Director, AQR

Share this article

Related programme

Analysis for Innovators

Analysis for Innovators

Innovate UK Analysis for Innovators can help boost productivity and competitiveness in your business through solving existing problems.


Connect with Innovate UK Business Connect

Join Innovate UK Business Connect's mailing list to receive updates on funding opportunities, events and to access Innovate UK Business Connect's deep expertise. Please check your email to confirm your subscription and select your area(s) of interest.