November 3, 2004 Queensland inventor Mike Lewis has developed an impellor that uses the same principles as salmon, bath water and tornadoes, however his ground-breaking technology is revolutionising water sterilising and providing environmentally-friendly methods to clean up toxic damage. Mike’s invention- Mixaerator- with the Twin Vortex Advantage (TVA) works using dual vortices, like the ones that occur when you pull the plug from the bath, or those found in the air currents of tornadoes.
"Salmon use similar vortices to my machine. That's how they leap up water falls, their fins send out mini whirlpools that create immense force to push them up," Mike said.
Mike's background is in bio-agricultural science and the treatment of contaminated water and he has managed an environmental clean up business for over 15 years.
He recently won an AUD $85,000 grant from the QLD State Government's Innovation Start Up Scheme (ISUS) to further develop his technology.
"We have just completed negotiations with Brisbane Water who will now manufacture our equipment. This is very exciting because we are discussing formally entering an alliance with them for the market entry of the technology into government and major water users such as power stations,” said Mike.
Mixaerator's applications are seemingly endless. Its versatility has been proved in areas such as liquid fertiliser and pesticide manufacture, drilling muds, toothpaste products, polymer and lime mixing, chemical free foaming and odour elimination, improved operational efficiency of biological sewage plants and treatment and destruction of sterilising chemicals in septic tanks.
But most of his work goes on in silence, contracted "on the quiet". Occasionally however he is taken into the limelight. The 1995 Woodford Folk Festival was about to be cancelled due to blue green algae contamination of the water supply. Mike was called in and within 24 hours the show was back on track and a huge success
More recently however, Mixaerator proved its capabilities in the clean-up of blue green algae contamination in over 100 million litres of recycled sewage water. NATA certified tests, confirmed that Mixaerator is up to 50 times more efficient than current methods available. "A staggering result which surprised even me,” said Mike.
However, the inspiration for the first prototype was to remove the stench from a grease trap at a popular shopping centre in Sydney.
"The usual way to stop the smells is to aerate the water. When you put air in, biological breakdown occurs and there are no more smells.
"This time too much gunk was flowing in and out, pushing air in only forced the smell out! The only viable solution was to pull the stuff up from the bottom and mix it with sufficient volumes of air to ensure no odour emanated. That’s when I thought of the bath tub and salmon,” he said.
"Having the first machine made was difficult. Several machinery shops just didn’t believe that it would work, I had to pay up front and convince one to make it even if it didn’t work,” Mike said. "Of course it did though."
Mike used versions of his machines with great success. The Queensland government even funded him to clean up old road depot sites on the Brisbane to Gold Coast Highway. "My job was to remove all the poisons, like arsenic and lead from the soil."
Following this, he wanted to bring Mixaerator to market to provide the opportunity for others to use the technology. "Unfortunately when I explained Mixaerator most people just didn’t understand how it could work it needed to be seen and endorsed by a third party,” he said.
The opportunity finally came when he was asked to demonstrate Mixaerator to a large water enterprise.
The Gold Coast Water Supply had deteriorated due to extensive drought and they planned to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars contracting an American company to add carbon powder to fix it.
"The Mixaerator is deceptive in it’s size for what it can achieve so I think maybe some people on the day initially wondered if it would work. However nine engineers came along and were willing to at least give the technology a try," Mike said
"The rapid rate at which Mixaerator added and totally mixed the carbon stunned them. This is usually a painstakingly slow process," he said
The result - one of Mike’s machines was installed, at a much lower price than the American company!
"At present we are literally just putting our toes in the water, so to speak."
But despite all this, what Mike would really love to see is an adaptation of the Mixaerator being used in third world countries to sterilize water and prevent disease.
Already talks have begun with some United Nations (UN) engineers and the invention is being promoted by the Triton Foundation, a not for profit organisation that promotes a culture of innovation by educating and assisting inventors in the successful commercialisation of their inventions.
The organisation was founded by entrepreneur George Lewin in association with the Queensland State Government.