Patents for Free

Xerox extraction technology for cleaning soil and waterXerox is releasing for free 11 patents used for removing solvents from soil and water. Anyone with a contaminated site can use the technology – old gas stations, dry cleaners and chemical facilities – more than 178,000 sites across America.

The process involves removing the volatile organic pollutants directly from the water and soil with a 50-horsepower vacuum. The time saver: both the ground and water are cleaned simultaneously, instead of separately, with the vacuum sucking up 98 percent of volatile organic solvents, such as carcinogenic toluene, benzene and others.

Over 175 firms are releasing patents to help with environmental cleanup. Eco-Patents Commons developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development puts environmental sustainability patents into the public domain.

More than twenty years ago I joined with Diamond Shamrock, a Texas oil and chemical firm, to bring new clean up technology to market. They had appointed the nation’s first officer of environmental management and had several research programs directed toward decontaminating land. Our goal was to use slurries of newly developed bacteria mixtures to clean contaminated soil under gas stations and refineries.

After many months of testing and promotion, the program failed to bring the technology through regulatory agencies. Instead of robust decontamination, a policy known as ‘out gassing’ was chosen where land is left fallow for months or years. Removing licensing fees and using tested methods may change the economics and again provide an opportunity for ‘true’ clean-up of contaminated soil and water.