A University of New Brunswick researcher whose technology has helped to stabilize huge sand dunes in Iran is now forming a company to develop commercial applications for the North American market, including the mining and agricultural industries.

Mostafa Aghaei has developed his environmentally friendly Nanocoil product from natural polymers to be mixed with water and used to prevent erosion or other movement of soil, sand or dust. He is now working with the university and Stiletto Consulting of Fredericton to develop the company, whose name is BIOpolynet, and is looking for a business development partner to build up the commercial side of the enterprise.

The chemist developed the product over eight years in Iran and validated it by showing that over a two- to three-year period it prevented the shifting of sand dunes in the desert. The movement of these dunes is a huge problem because they can cover roads and even villages and knock down structures.

“I had a company back in Iran, and  . . . we tested the Nanocoil out in the desert and had very good results,” said Aghaei, who immigrated to New Brunswick from Iran earlier this year.

He said that he began to experiment in 2000 with certain natural polymers – which are molecular structures built up from a large number of similar molecules bonded together – that are built not in a linear formation but in a coil. The structure means that when the matter is dissolved in water and then hardens, the molecules of the residue interlock with one another, forming a natural crust that resists erosion.

Aghaei said he can develop the product from compounds found in the soil and water indigenous to the area where it is applied to guarantee the ecosystem is not harmed by spraying Nanocoil.

It proved effective in stabilizing sand dunes, and also in preventing the desert dust from being whipped into a sandstorm, one of the main causes of air pollution in the Middle East. In Canada, Aghaei believes it could have commercial applications in the mining and agriculture industries, including vineyards. He added that Nanocoil could have such applications as preserving public monuments.

Aghaei said that he has also been working on other application for the product, such as heat packs and ice packs, which he sold commercially in Iran, and also a gel that can be used to fight fires.

Laura O’Blenis, the principal at Stiletto Consulting, said market research has shown there is relatively little competition in sand or soil stabilization, and fewer than 30 companies are working in the space in In North America. 

“There are just a couple in Canada and they don’t have this system of using biopolymers as a primary ingredient,” said Aghaei.

The company will eventually need some seed capital – O’Blenis estimates about $300,000 – to launch, but Aghaei said the more pressing need at the moment is to find a commercial partner.