UA nanotechnology answers EPA’s cleaner-emissions mandate



Greatly magnified ceramic nanofibers hold particles of metal catalysts. (Image by Sneha Swaminathan.)

Days are numbered until gas-powered engines on lawn mowers, weed trimmers, personal watercraft and speedboats no longer emit unlimited amounts of gas fumes, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and smog-forming pollutants. The EPA recently announced that strict regulations regarding such emissions are set to go into effect in 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, an entrepreneurial company headquartered in Colorado, using technology developed at The University of Akron, is waiting in the wings with a solution.

John Finley, chairman and CEO of MemPro Ceramics Corp. with offices in Akron, Ohio, and Copper Mountain, Colo., has an exclusive license on ceramic nanofiber technology developed by Dr. George Chase, UA professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Dr. Darrell Reneker, UA professor of polymer science. MemPro filed for a patent on the use of the ceramic nanofibers for pollution reduction in May 2008. That same month, Finley presented MemPro's NOXFOX catalytic filter for small engines. Product details are available at

"With positive research results in George Chase's laboratory, we decided to create the NOXFOX brand, even though EPA regulations were still pending. This turned out to be a very fortuitous decision," Finley says.

Funding for product testing and analysis

Dr. George Newkome, UA's vice president for research and president of the University of Akron Research Foundation, notes that in June 2008 the National Science Foundation awarded MemPro $500,000 in research funding - two-thirds of which will go to UA for product testing and analysis.

"Dr. Chase and his team of student researchers are currently testing the durability of catalyzed ceramic nanofibers at high temperatures typical of exhaust streams," Newkome says. "The team also is investigating ways to optimize ceramic nanofiber production and targeted applications in coal-fired energy."