The arrival of a notification of a successful patent application, usually from the United States’ patent office, is a cause of celebration at TEC Edmonton’s Technology Transfer division. (And probably much greater celebration from the inventor(s), but that’s another story.)
So the issuing of two new patents for "modified ETS-10 zeolites for olefin separation" and the “electro-chemical de-stabilization of thin liquid films" (translated into layman's terms below) marks the triumphant outcome of a very long gestation.
The inventor – often a researcher at the University of Alberta, since TEC Edmonton is the university’s official technology transfer agent– starts with a Report of Invention filed with TEC Edmonton.
TEC Edmonton – if asked by the inventor – can take the invention to the next step, explore its market potential and determine if the invention is unique enough to be granted a patent – an exclusive right to use the invention or process, granted by governments, usually for a period of 20 years.
But applying for a patent is a long and expensive road, usually involving lawyers and extensive paperwork.
TEC Edmonton has great expertise in this area: Together, Technology Transfer Director Jayant Kumar, Technology Transfer Manager (Natural Sciences and Engineering) Darrell Petras and Technology Transfer Manager (Health Sciences) Joanna Preston have over a quarter-century's experience in the field.
So the department is pretty darned good at advising the inventor of his or her realistic chance of being granted a patent, then, if all agree it's a worthwhile exercise, overseeing the patent application process.
A patent for “modified ETS-10 zeolites for olefin separation” is may be Greek to the layman, but the just-granted patent now gives the U of A and researcher Steven Kuznicki, plus his team of Alejandro Anson, Tetyana Segin and Christopher Lin the exclusive rights to a new way of separating ethylene from ethane, a mixture which is a byproduct of petroleum refining. Ethylene is the most produced organic compound in the world and is widely used in the production of plastic (polythene), detergents, synthetic lubricants, and other useful compounds.
The “new way” has the potential to be far less expensive and less complicated than current separation methods, and if successful on a commercial scale, the now-patented process would attract much interest from the petrochemical industry the world over.
The now-patented method will likely be well used, since petrochemical company NOVA Chemicals has sponsored the research and is a project partner.
Just a few days later, another successful patent notification arrived in the TEC Edmonton office, for the U of A and its research team of leader Dr. Subir Bhattacharjee, Farshid Karimi Mostowfi, Jacob Masliyah, Jan Czarnecki and Elizeusz Lucjusz Musial.
The team has come up with a new device that measures the strength of an emulsion, the bond that holds different liquids, usually water and something else, together.
The potential implication of the patent for the “electro-chemical de-stabilization of thin liquid films” is far-reaching. In the oil sands, for instance, there is no accurate measurement of the quality and quantity of “de-emulsifiers” needed for separating the heavy oil molecules from water. To ensure the separation takes place, operators must currently err on the side of caution and use a larger quantity or more expensive chemical de-emulsifiers than is likely necessary.
If Dr. Bhattacharjee’s device does the job, the guesswork will be taken out of the de-emulsification process, leading to considerable cost savings. Because of those cost-saving potential, a consortium of oil-sand producers have supported the research.
Getting science - properly explored, certified, and ready to go - out to Alberta's industries to improve efficiencies, productivity and environmental safeguards: It's all part of a day's work here at TEC Edmonton.
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