A group University of Tartu molecular biology graduates will make chemical detergents history


Estonian start-up ReLaDe is developing reusable biological enzymes that will change the way you wash your clothes. And with the company recently taking third price at ClimateLaunchpad 2015 competition, chemical detergents could soon become a thing of the past.

ReLaDe's representative Mart Ustav Jr. said their solution will make biological enzymes reusable, meaning users no longer need to buy bag after bag of laundry detergent. As a result, no more pollutants will be washed down the train.

"What we have is a reusable washing system that is based on nanotechnology, hitherto only used in science and pharmaceutics," Ustav said. In short, the idea is to use magnetic nanoparticles to bind enzyme molecules and magnetize them. The resulting magnetic detergent molecules can be easily removed from waste water via magnetic force and reused in subsequent wash cycles for months.

Ustav's five strong team have all studied molecular biology at the University of Tartu and worked at its Institute of Technology.

"It was in the lab that we had the heureka moment," Ustav said. "We saw an opportunity to create something environmentally friendly that could benefit both people and the environment," he explained.

The novel washing system recently won third prize at the prestigious ClimateLaunchpad 2015, Europe’s largest cleantech business idea competition.

The competition had over 700 start-ups from 28 countries, offering sustainable solutions for energy, waste, transport, behavioral change and urban development, 82 of which got to present their groundbreaking idea in the final in Amsterdam.

"Most of the finalists came from world's top universities - Oxford, Cambridge," Ustav said, adding that their success is therefore also a great recognition to the university.

The first prize went to Desertcontrol, a sandy soil enhancer from Norway, that will transform sandy soil into productive farmland by enabling the retention of water and plant nutrients.

Second overall was Arctus from Iceland, which is in the process of developing energy efficient and environmentally friendly production of aluminium.