News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

NOCHE

Greater Akron Chamber

Meaden & Moore


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Science and Technology




Exploradio - Swellable Glass
Wooster chemist takes accidental invention out of the lab and into production, and cleans up.
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
Paul Edmiston adds acetone to a batch of Osorb in his College of Wooster lab. The reusable glass removes organic pollutants from industrial waste water. Edmiston discovered the material by accident.
Courtesy of Jeff St.Clair, WKSU
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

In science, an accidental discovery can quickly take you into unchartered territory, where sometimes it’s best to follow along and see where it leads you.   

This week on Exploradio, a Wooster chemist follows up on an experiment gone wrong, and is now ‘cleaning up’.

Exploradio - Swellable Glass

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:44)


(Click image for larger view.)

Lab Accident

“You hear that crackling…?”

Paul Edmiston still gets a thrill out of the way his invention works –

“Sounds like Rice Krispies in the morning…”

Granules of Osorb, his patented glass compound, swell and crackle as he squirts acetone onto a petrie dish full of the stuff.

“It never gets old…  especially when you think a coffee can  full of this will lift your car as it’s doing this process…it’s like watching a flower blossom in about a second.”

 Edmiston describes what we’re watching as a mechanical, rather than a chemical process, as the glass molecules unfold on the nanoscale  –

“There’s a toy on the market that’s this expanding sphere.  Well, all the little nodules on that, those are the Osorb particles, and when it’s shrunken down in that collapsed state, it’s under an incredible amount of tension and it wants to boing up to the enlarged state. And that’s what causes the absorption process to occur.”

Osorb is an organo-silicate, a type of glass he says is midway between a pane of glass and the silicone caulk in your bathtub. 

Edmiston came upon the material by accident in 2005 while testing glass compounds that bind to explosive particles  for use in airport detectors.

But something went wrong in one of the experiments.  His student called him in…

“So I come reluctantly down to the lab, and she added the TNT test solution and it swelled.  And at that point I believe I said, ‘That’s a little unusual.’”

Swellable glass is unusual, and the discovery led Edmiston in a completely different direction - 

“Here we were going down the street one way but it was taking us to a whole new continent of materials.”


From Discovery to Start-up 

He began exploring that new continent.  Edmiston soon found that Osorb could pick out oils and hydrocarbons from water and hold them tightly until heated, then release them and recharge for another round of filtration.

He discovered an ideal use for his invention -  the purification of polluted waste water from the oil and gas industry. 

After two years of experimenting, he realized it was time to scale up production.

“The first batches were made commercially with me and my mother.  We would come in with one of the early employees, Laura Underwood, and we would take turns. ‘Who has the 4 a.m. shift? Who has the 9 a.m. shift?’  This is the kind of backbreaking work you had to do in the early stages to get it going. ”

Taylor Lamborn, marketing director for Edmiston’s company, ABS Materials, points to where industrial batches of Osorb are made in a factory on Wooster’s south side…

“You can can see trash cans full of it, gallons of Osorb…”

Lamborn describes a chance meeting that catalyzed the business venture.   Edmiston met fellow Woosterite Stephen Spoonamore while traveling. They began talking…

“And in this 50 minute plane ride, they had a conversation that ended with Mr. Spoonamore investing in Dr. Edmiston’s technology saying, ‘We’re making a business out of this.’  They wrote up a business plan and a couple of months later, the company was founded.”

Paul Edmiston says his first move was to go back to the lab bench.

“I’m really good at chemistry, and really sub-par at business.”


Expanding Uses 

His job, in addition to teaching chemistry at the College of Wooster, is to develop new types of materials to deal with the flood of pollutants that are biproducts of industrial production.

“We’re taking these whole new types of chemistries that are developing out of 21st century material science that’s going on in Ohio and the world, and turning it back to try and treat these problems that are legacies of the 20th century.”

With investors, and grants from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, his company has quickly grown to about 40 employees.

Parent company ABS makes Osorb to clean  polluted ground water. A spin-off specializes in purifying drilling waste, and a third venture recovers valuable oils or pharmaceuticals from process solutions.

Edmiston credits the mistake made in the lab for opening up the  possibilities.

“That’s actually what normally happens in science rather than the direct, ‘I’m going to work on this and make this breakthrough.’”

He says accidents are often the key to discovery.

 

Exploradio, exploring science and innovation in Northeast Ohio.


Related Links & Resources
ABS Materials website


Related WKSU Stories

Exploradio: Inside the Cloud
Monday, July 18, 2011

Exploradio - Whale necks and noses
Monday, June 27, 2011

Exploradio - Human studies help zoo primates
Monday, June 13, 2011

Exploradio - The secret world of race tires
Monday, May 23, 2011

Exploradio - The future of fuel-cell technology in Ohio
Monday, May 16, 2011

Exploradio - Blue Penguins and other mysteries
Monday, May 9, 2011

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

HOF's Canton expansion could take an island and make it a village
I live in the block from Broad St to the Hall of Fame and will be impacted by the expansion. I am in the process of selling my home and planned to long before i...

Cleveland redeploys police to replace rejected red-light traffic cameras
Periodic rotational enforcement without warning does NOT change behavior and the city officials know that. This is the basis of all officer-run enforcement trap...

New enrollment period offers more insurance options
The removal of federal funding for healthcare CO-OPs may limit the growth of the CO-OP movement. http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=6381

The family of Boardman vet killed in Vietnam receives his medals
My name is Mike Eisenbraun. I am Larry's brother. I was 14 years old when Larry was killed in Vietnam. He has been gone for 46 years but it seems like yester...

Cleveland seniors are creating new wealth -- and facing new challenges
Why is anyone surprised that we people over 65 are not retiring? If you have been paying attention, defined company funded pensions were phasing out in the eigh...

Ohio company cuts off a dairy supplier after allegations of animal abuse
these people should be held accountable for their actions. i would be more than pleased to see a year or more behind bars. i will NEVER eat anything that comes ...

Goodyear recruits thousands of vets
What a wonderful interview! Excellent reporting skills by a talented young reporter! I look forward to hearing more from Ms. Schley!

Ohio Democratic Party begins the rebuilding process
I agree 100% with Sen. Brown. I think it is absolutely critical for the Democratic Party in Ohio to engage in the long, tedious, hard task of re-building from t...

They're talking again in the Macedonia bridge dispute
Norfolk Southern says the Ledge road bridge meets regulations for train traffic, however it was built as an overpass for a roadway and/or farm usage. I think t...

Cleveland City Council to consider transgender public restroom law
this is sick. I do not want my daughter in the same bathroom as a perverted 45 year old man. this proposed legislation could seriously damage the security of ch...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University