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Faculty & Staff Honors

South Carolina: Researcher Awarded NSF Grant to Bring Patented Method for Oil Cleanup to Market

Using a method that is faster, cheaper, cleaner and safer than others, Dr. Jamie Lead, at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, director of the SC SmartState Center for Environmental Nanoscience and Risk (CENR) uses nanoparticles and magnets to remove oil from both oil-water and oil-soil mixtures. Over the past several years, Dr. Lead has been perfecting the technique – testing it on a range of environmental conditions within the lab, using it in combination with oil-degrading bacteria and scaling it up to prepare the approach for real-life applications.

By working quickly and efficiently, while creating no residual toxins that harm environmental and human health, this innovative environmental clean-up technique has the potential to become a game changer for responding to hazards. Such hazards include catastrophic accidents (e.g., BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill) and smaller-scale negligence and/or ongoing problems that affect local communities and environments. It can be used proactively before any spills, and for other problems such as lead contamination. Whether large- or small-scale, the clean-up will benefit the contamination site and will have a positive economic benefit.

CENR is currently in the process of preparing the technique for commercialization through Dr. Lead’s company, GeoMat, so that it can be accessed and implemented by government agencies, private companies, especially those related to environmental clean-up and the oil industry, and others across the world. To support these efforts, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Lead a $50,000 grant through their Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program.

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