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photos by Bill Cramer ©2009 Wonderful Machine Inc.
Alex Mittal, 24
While volunteering in Honduras, laying pipes to bring running water to villages, Mittal, then earning two degrees at the University of Pennsylvania—one from the engineering school and one from the business school—hit on the idea of purifying water to kill pathogens as the water traveled to the villages. "One of the biggest problems in the developing world is not just access to water but water quality," he says. Back at Wharton, Mittal and a group of fellow engineering students devised their thesis project around developing a low-cost water pipe that kills water-borne bacteria using off-the-shelf equipment.
Mittal founded Innova Materials in 2007 to commercialize their antimicrobial technology in collaboration with Engineers Without Borders. That same year, he spun out Ion Armour. The six-employee (three full-time) company makes antimicrobial products for luxury automakers, the U.S. government, and high-tech firms. Five percent of the revenue generated from Ion Armour (including a special edition yoga mat introduced last year) is used to continue development on water purification technology. This year, the company expects $250,000 in revenue.