This wastewater desalination plant fits in a 40-foot tractor-trailer.

"You just drop it down, connect it to electricity, run wastewater through a hose into the machine, and out the other end is drinking water," said Richard Papalian, chief executive of Sionix Corp.


The plant is called Sionix Elixir System, a water purifier based on technology primarily used in Europe. The company has honed it over a decade of research and development, during which time the company filed 10 patents for water purification.

It works this way: Dirty water is pumped into a tank and oxygen is injected into the water from below. The resulting bubbles bring impurities to the top, creating a foamlike layer, which is then discarded. The process is called Dissolved Air Flotation.

"You look at the green, brown or dark water and it doesn't look like it's got solids in it," Papalian said. "But this process takes suspended impurities out of the water, creating a very, very thick foam, like shaving cream. You skim it off the top, and water out the other end is usable."

It isn't drinkable until the water undergoes another process where it is treated with reverse osmosis and ionization. The technology is awaiting approval by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The portable water purifier is now on Villa Park Dam in Orange County. The water behind the dam mountain runoff has concentrations of iron and magnesium that are too high for the Serrano Water District's processing plant. The Sionix technology, still in its pilot stage, dilutes the iron and magnesium content to a level that allows processing.

Papalian, a serial entrepreneur based in Pacific Palisades, has recently taken over Sionix Corp. Seven hydrology and geology professors, mostly at California State University, Fullerton, work for the company. Sionix has $15 million in shareholder investments but has not secured major contracts yet.

The company has recruited actor Don Johnson to create a promotional video targeting international health organizations that could potentially bring the technology to Third World countries with scarce clean water supplies.

Turkey Time

Cornerstone OnDemand Inc.'s Internet-based software will streamline human resource management for the world's largest exporter of turkey products Butterball LLC.

Butterball is one of a number of national and international companies contracting with the Santa Monica-based technology company.

The eight-year-old company also provides service to Aon, Barnes & Noble, DirecTV, Honda and Smith Barney. Its online software tools provide digital orientations for new employees, document yearly performance reviews online, manage organization charts and offer 30,000 different types of online training sessions.

"Cornerstone allows us to automate the way we manage our talent," said Beverly Hinson, Butterball's director of organizational development and training. "We're a large organization and the technology will help us save time and administrative costs."

Last year, Cornerstone received $32 million in venture funding from Bessemer Partners and Bay Partners. The company used those funds to open offices in Paris; London; Munich, Germany; and Tel Aviv, Israel. The company now has 140 employees, compared with 65 a year ago.

Game Merger

Video game publisher THQ Inc.'s decision to acquire Maryland-based development studio Big Huge Games is not a huge surprise.

The company has made nine acquisitions of studios in the past eight years, including Volition Inc., developers of hit game "Saints Row," in 2000, as well as Juice Games of racing title "Juiced" and Paradigm Entertainment, makers of "Stuntman," both in 2006. Chief Executive Officer Brian Farrell has said previously that this pace will continue.

The financial terms of THQ's purchase of Big Huge Games were not disclosed. The studio has developed mostly role-playing games such as "Rise of Legends," "Age of Empires: The Asian Dynasties" and "Catan." The 100-person studio was founded in 2000.

Alert Buyout

NTI Group, which sends mass telephone and e-mail alerts for schools, was recently scooped up for $182 million.

Not a bad deal for a six-year-old startup, which has grown significantly as school shootings have increased over the years. Last year, it brought in $30 million in revenue.

Washington, D.C.-based educational software maker Blackboard Inc.'s acquisition of NTI Group makes sense. Blackboard makes electronic keycards for dorms and educational software for universities that makes lectures accessible online. NTI Group disseminates emergency and other urgent messages for mostly K-12 schools.

Together, the two companies cover the entire spectrum of educational institutions from K-12 schools to universities.

"It's an amazing fit," said Natasha Rabe, chief business officer at NTI Group. "It's a great opportunity to expand our opportunities and take advantage of our strength in K-12 and their strength in higher ed."

Blackboard projects revenues of up to $284 million next year, exclusive of the NTI acquisition.

Staff reporter Booyeon Lee can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 230, or at blee@labusinessjournal.com .

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