A College of Wooster professor will be saluted Monday at an awards ceremony sponsored by Popular Mechanics magazine.
Associate chemistry professor Paul Edmiston is one of 21 winners in the magazine’s seventh annual Breakthrough Awards.
He is one of 11 innovators and 10 products that the magazine is honoring at a dinner in New York City.
Edmiston developed a super-absorbent, spongelike substance called Osorb. It absorbs organic contaminants the way a sponge soaks up water. What is being absorbed can be reclaimed and used again.
The key to the absorbency is the way the building-block molecules are arranged. The structure includes outer parts that repel water but allow hydrocarbons in. The interior is filled with tiny pores that trap the hydrocarbons.
The Osorb itself can be reclaimed at the end of the process by thermal treatment or chemical rinsing and re-used.
The material has big economic potential because it may prove useful in cleaning up oil spills, aquifers contaminated with toxic chemicals, pesticides and pharmaceuticals, waste waters from oil and gas drilling and other industrial wastes.
The material was developed in 2005 in a College of Wooster lab where Edmiston was directing research.
The discovery led to the formation of two companies: privately held ABSMaterials Inc. in Wooster in 2008 and its wholly owned subsidiary, Produced Water Absorbents LLC, in Houston, in 2009.
Edmiston is the chief science officer, who now splits his time between his college teaching and commercially developing his product.
His companies are working to prove that what works very well in the laboratory and on a small scale will be effective on a large scale out in the real world.
His companies have contracts with such corporations as British Petroleum, Houston-based M-I SWACO, National Semiconductor, RJR and Norway-based Statoil, the state-owned energy giant.
Edmiston’s material has been tested on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and at a contaminated aquifer in Ohio.