Necessity may be the key to invention, but what happens when there's no money to back the invention?
Kent Knaebel, president of Adsorption Research Inc. in Dublin, needed to find out after he'd been encouraged by Ashland Chemical Co. to devise a way to recover sulfur dioxide, a catalyst used in foundry operations.
Sulfur dioxide and a carrier gas are used only once in such processes and then discarded.
"The two turn out to be expensive," Knaebel says. "Not for a minute's worth of use, but when you combine, say, 16 hours a day, 300 to 365 days a year, it really mounts up. It's a tremendous expense. Not only that, but it hurts the environment and it consumes a lot of energy."
Adsorption Research worked with Ashland to devise a process to recover 99.5 percent of the sulfur dioxide and 99.8 percent of the carrier gas used in metal casting operations.
However, Knaebel had no funds to manufacture the special units in which the process needed to take place-or to market them to the industry.
Knaebel found his answer in a U.S. Department of Energy grant program called National Industrial Competitiveness through Energy, Environment and Economics, referred to as NICE3.
The overall goal of the program is to encourage new technologies aimed at improving energy efficiency, reducing industry costs and promoting clean production processes.
Knaebel estimates it took him about five days to complete the grant application. Without the grant of about $250,000, he says, he would not have been able to attempt the project, because he would have been forced to take out a loan, against which his company does not have a lot of collateral to support.
"This way if the business is successful, the government will make back easily what they put into it, mostly in taxes," Knaebel says. "Plus there will be less pollution and the amount of energy consumed by the different industries will be reduced."
The NICE3 program is designed to benefit the state's economy and industry through technology developments. Companies funded under the program must share information on their project by, for example, publishing their findings or presenting papers at technical meetings.
Knaebel is using his grant-which will pay for about 45 percent of the project-to develop a prototype unit to be tested in a foundry, he hopes by June 1999. Once the project is proven successful, he'll make larger units and then decide whether to sell the units, lease them or furnish them but charge for product processed.
For more information on the NICE3 program, call John Greenway at the Ohio Department of Development's Office of Energy Efficiency, 466-7406.