University of Leeds spin-out Xeros has formed a partnership with US dry cleaning technology group GreenEarth in a deal which heralds the next stage in the company's evolution.
Xeros is commercialising technology developed at the University which enables a new way of cleaning clothes. The Xeros process replaces water with reusable polymer beads, reducing the water and electricity required for effective cleaning. Three years of laboratory testing has shown that the Xeros cleaning process cleans as well as conventional washing while requiring 90% less water and operating with substantially less electricity.
The deal with GreenEarth will result in Xeros' laundry cleaning technology being distributed to the retail dry cleaning industry. GreenEarth, which currently licenses its patented silicone-based dry cleaning technology around the world, will have exclusive rights to distribute the technology throughout North America to retail dry cleaners.
Bill Westwater, Xeros' Chief Executive Officer, said: "Our partnership with GreenEarth is a critical piece of this project. They are not only experts in licensing and marketing environmentally sound technologies, they stand apart in the dry cleaning community as a company genuinely committed to creating solutions and new opportunities."
Xeros was developed and patented after 30 years of research by world-class polymer scientists at Leeds, led by Stephen Burkinshaw, Professor of Textile Chemistry. The company has received funding from the University's commercialisation partner, IP Group. Professor Burkinshaw said: "Stains behave just like dyes and nylon polymers have an inherent polarity that attracts stains. Picture how white nylon garments can get dingy over time as dirt builds up on the surface despite repeated washing."
In designing the Xeros cleaning process, Professor Burkinshaw harnessed the property of polymers to transform under humid conditions and become absorbent. He said: "Dirt is not just attracted to the surface, it is locked into the centre. This is exactly what happens when Xeros nylon beads are gently tumbled with dampened garments."
The tiny nylon polymer beads are designed to gently but fully penetrate into a large wash load. Only a small amount of water is required to dampen the garments, loosen stains and create the water vapour that activates the "molecular magic" of the beads. The beads are then tumbled with the clothes, allowing the polarizing properties of polymer to attract and absorb dirt. Once diffused into the bead itself, stains are locked away from the garment, preventing re-deposition.
Ron Benjamin, GreenEarth Cleaning Managing Director, said: "We honestly believe Xeros will change the way we launder clothes while helping to conserve our fresh water supply. What a remarkable concept-wet cleaning that no longer sends water down the drain."
GreenEarth Cleaning will be the exclusive licensor of the patented Xeros technology to retail dry cleaners in North America; it will also have the right to license to existing GreenEarth Affiliates in every country around the world.
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About the University of Leeds
The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise showed the University of Leeds to be the UK's eighth biggest research powerhouse. The University is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/
Xeros Ltd is a spin-out company from the University of Leeds, England. Started in 2006, the company is focused on bringing to market a variety of polymer-based cleaning applications that dramatically reduce cost and environmental impact. The first application is polymer cleaning for the laundry market, replacing the conventional water-based system with a Xeros cleaning system that uses 90% less water. Xeros will initially target users in the commercial laundry sector but hopes to compact the system so it can ultimately replace conventional washing machines in every home.
Xeros has multiple patents and world leading know-how in the area of polymer cleaning. The core system uses nylon beads that clean stains off garments and absorb the dirt into the bead itself. They can be used hundreds of times before they need to be replaced. The nylon beads will then be recycled to ensure the best possible environmental impact.
Together with Xeros beads, the system requires only a small amount of water, to loosen stains and create a water vapour, and a small amount of detergent. Less detergent is required as the beads have their own cleaning efficacy and detergent concentration remains high under low water conditions. Special machines have been designed that will automatically release the beads into the wash and then separate them out again before the garments are taken out of the machine. The machines are still at prototype phase but first versions should be ready for market by late 2010.
About IP Group
IP Group is an intellectual property (IP) commercialisation company that specialises in commercialising university technology. Founded in 2001, IP Group listed on AIM in October 2003 and moved to the Official List in June 2006. It has made two acquisitions to date - Techtran, a company set up to commercialise university intellectual property under a long term contract with the University of Leeds, in 2005 and Top Technology Ventures, an investment adviser to early stage technology venture capital funds, in 2004.
IP Group has formed long-term partnerships with ten universities - the University of Oxford, King's College London, CNAP/University of York, the University of Leeds, the University of Bristol, the University of Surrey, the University of Southampton, Queen Mary (University of London), the University of Bath and the University of Glasgow.
The Company's portfolio is diverse with exposure to five main sectors - Energy & Renewables, Healthcare & Life Sciences: Non-therapeutics, Healthcare & Life Sciences: Therapeutics, IT & Communications and Chemicals & Materials. To date, eleven portfolio companies have listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, one on PLUS Markets and there have been two trade sales.