Friday, 28 April 2017

Meet Ken Code, Chief Science Officer at BioLargo Water, Inc.

BioLargo Water is made up of numerous talented individuals working toward a common goal, building a disruptive, affordable water treatment system to impact countless industries. Behind the scientists and engineers of our R&D team is Ken Code, the Chief Science Officer of BioLargo. Ken is the inventor of the Advanced Oxidation System (AOS) and the innovator behind nearly every BioLargo patent and technology to-date, and an intrepid entrepreneur. Ken has worked, one way or another, in chemistry since the mid-sixties, and is an enthusiastic teacher for every intern and student that comes through BioLargo Water’s doors. I’ve interviewed Ken about his role at the company, and transcripts of that interview can be found below. This is the first in a series of posts, which we’ll produce over time, introducing the people behind BioLargo water, including engineers, scientists, management, and even students.

Q: What was your first experience with research (to the best of your memory)?

Ken Code Answer: Red Deer Junior High School Science Fair, 1961, demonstrating the nervous system of Rana pipiens (leopard frogs) by dissection and staining. Won second place!!

Q: How did you get into the water technology business?

Ken Code Answer: Kicking and screaming! However, anybody attached in any way to the oilfield business is keenly aware that the clients are producing water, in addition to oil and gas, whether they want to or not. So, my exposure from the supply side of this market was equipment and supplies for gas drying, H2S remediation, drilling fluid chemistry, fracking additives, and many other issues.  On the Draugen Rig [in Norway], I had to specify and obtain special steel for sea-water fire suppression pumps and lines.  So it was with eyes-wide-open that I joined the OSPW Chair and not surprised in the least about the difficulties treating intransigent pollutants.

Q: In your opinion, what’s the greatest challenge in water technology research?

Ken Code Answer: IMHO, the largest issue with water tech research is the entrenched volumes facing the clients. The attitude of freely dumping pollutants into large volumes of water and passing the problems downstream, is the original sin. This eventually concentrates, and where it may have been easy to treat the problem, concentration has widespread intricate thermodynamic consequences, and energy costs multiply, they do not add.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and equally, a concentration. The current treatments of water are not natural, and involve unwanted energy and chemistry inputs to, at best, appear to solve a water problem. The natural iodine cycle provides a roadmap for safe, low-energy water technology that can achieve much more widespread acceptance. This fact is at the heart of our company.

Q: Clean water is becoming increasingly scarce in the world. This is obviously a vast and complex problem, but what, in your opinion, is one thing that governments should do to stem this issue?

Ken Code Answer: Governments are at a physical limit to accept waste water of any kind, and need to push back the treatment to users of water.  Greywater recycle is probable the first demonstration of what to do into the future.  Non-leaching fertilizers will also help.

Q: What makes the Advanced Oxidation System (AOS) a unique water treatment technology?

Ken Code Answer: The AOS does one thing for all of science – it demonstrates that we can produce a safe, and extremely rapid-acting oxidizing agent in the form of iodine oxides, whose existence we once suspected, and now can prove by hard X-ray XANES observations. They act almost instantaneously because they have acquired so much excess energy, and therefore become a solution to the large volume of water problem. They are NOT the OH· of the present understanding, but actually highly oxidative molecules never before utilized in water treatment, and possessing safe, superior oxidative qualities.

Q: What sets BioLargo Water apart from other research and development companies?

Ken Code Answer: We accept the notion that the answers to water pollution treatment in the future are not derived from conventional methods, so that our AOS discoveries and science are a look to new science. I have two PhD’s from the OSPW Chair, which was an accumulation of everything conventionally known about advance oxidation over a 15-year study period. So these two know for certain, that we are very different. Success begins with disruption of current thinking.

Q: How would you describe, in one sentence, your philosophy around new technology design?

Ken Code Answer: Triangles. There is always a third dimension.

Q: What do you see as the next great leap forward in water technology, that isn’t yet possible? 

Ken Code Answer: Using coal mines and coal beds for water treatment reservoirs.

Q: What about in desalinization?

Ken Code Answer: Yes, I do. The salts dissolved in water permit transmission of electric current with their outer electron shells, and some current work on electronic deionization has legs. As the AOS in Generation 3 evolves with our better understanding of energy delivery to water systems via the near-field of energetic antennas immersed in the water, we will also observe the attraction of oppositely charged ions towards portions of the antenna design. So, in theory, we can electrically remove salts forcibly concentrated in this region and that will be our contribution in the near term to low energy deionization. However, concentrating the ions has its own problems, so the whole area is under development.

Q: What is your favorite part of working with BioLargo Water?

Ken Code Answer: It consumes my day every waking moment.  Nice to have officially retired 10 years ago and now work harder that I ever have in my life.

Q: Many students and recent graduates work at BioLargo Water – you must end up doing a lot of teaching. What does it mean to you to mentor up-and-coming scientists?

Ken Code Answer: Yes. I have been a student all my life, and my three children gave my wife and me the great joy of achieving 7 degrees among them. We have been dedicated to students all our lives. So if we are helpful, in any way, that brings more joy. Teaching can be done either by attraction or promotion, but my personal philosophy is that attraction results in student voluntary responses, and I get to learn from them. So students who worked on our technology during their time under a supervisor and then come on board BioLargo are a special gift, and true collaboration results.


Stay tuned for more BioLargo Water staff spotlights, as we make our way through the company’s R&D and management team. Next, we’ll introduce you to Dr. Richard Smith, President of BioLargo Water.

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