Prof. Chiara Neto

Chiara is a Professor of Chemistry and the Chief Scientific Officer of Dewpoint Innovations. Her research focuses on the physical chemistry of interfaces, to help design surfaces that have advanced functional properties such as superhydrophobicity and patterned coatings.

School start-up company Dewpoint Innovations

In August 2022, Prof. Chiara Neto and her team spun start-up company Dewpoint Innovations, backed by venture capital funding, to commercialise their novel coatings. Dewpoint’s mission is to ensure global, pervasive adoption of its cost-effective, equitably accessible coatings that combat drought and heat waves. The mission will be achieved through the development of dual function coatings which both passively cool the surface on which they are applied and collect water from the atmosphere through condensation on that surface.

Prof. Chiara Neto and the Dewpoint R&D team.

The world is facing increasing temperatures and severe water shortages. The situation is even more dire in cities where buildings and concrete contribute to the urban heat island effect. This effect results in temperatures up to 4 °C warmer than surrounding rural areas.  It is well documented and recognized by governments globally that higher temperatures in urban settings have a direct effect on mortality and morbidity of the population. All over the world, regulations are being employed to moderate the heat island effect.

The world is also facing a future of increasing droughts and water shortages. Projections show that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be under threat for water shortages. No single solution is going to solve this problem – we will need a toolbox. Some current approaches to mitigating water shortages include reservoirs, active water generators, and desalination. However, these require reliance on limited natural water sources and energy. Atmospheric water harvesting is a very promising, aspirational approach to water collection. Yet, no process has been established that combines the required features of energy- and output-efficient water harvesting and is also low cost, scalable and stable. This is where Dewpoint Innovations comes in.

The creation of the start-up follows over 10 years of research in the Neto group into the surface properties that determine the most effective atmospheric water capture. The recent approach was developed as part of the “Advanced Capture of Water from the Atmosphere” Sydney Nano Grand Challenge project, funded in 2018 by the Sydney Nano Institute, in co-partnership with the Faculty of Science and the School of Chemistry, and co-led by Prof. Chiara Neto and Prof. Martijn de Sterke. During the PhD work of Dr Ming Chiu, under Neto’s supervision, the team discovered a novel coatings approach that was patented and won the 2020 Bridge Hub Water Challenge and attracted the attention of investors.

The current Dewpoint R&D team consist of six chemists and engineers, currently based in the School of Chemistry, who are close to demonstrating proof-of-principle for the commercial realisation of this long-held dream, delivering clean water where it’s needed, when it’s needed, in a sustainable and scalable manner.