On Feb. 24, the Ohio Third Frontier Commission provided an additional $600,000 toward a partnership between Youngstown State University and Polyflow LLC with hopes of commercializing alternative fuels from polymer waste.
The project received $1 million in funding last year to take care of labor and traditional expenses. The additional funding will account for supplies and equipment.
The Ohio Third Frontier is an initiative that provides grants for technology-based projects.
Polyflow, a company based out of Akron, has a goal of bringing sustainability to the polymer industry.
Michael Hripko, director of research and technology-based economic development for the YSU College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, said the partnership was formed during the 2010 Sustainable Energy Forum.
Hripko said he is excited about the collaboration.
“YSU is developing a reputation in the region for pursuing and researching these types of ideas and concepts,” Hripko said.
Jay Schabel, CEO of Polyflow, said he chose YSU as a partner partly because of the staff’s enthusiasm.
“People have asked, ‘Why not Akron?'” Schabel said. “YSU was more excited and open about everything and have more of an understanding of the technology. They were very welcoming to us.”
Hripko introduced Schabel to Josef Simeonsson, an associate professor of chemistry at YSU, who took interest in the project.
“At this point, we’re in early stages. We have a good group of people to work with,” Simeonsson said.
It’s predicted that the two parties will be able to create a 2.5-ton capacity semi-work processor that mixes rubber and plastic, converting it into gas and energy.
Simeonsson said the process works almost in reverse, as natural gases and oils are used in the manufacturing of rubber and plastic. Through melting the waste, it can be converted back to oil.
“If this is well developed and accepted, it could change the way you look at plastics,” Simeonsson said.
Mike McKay, senior manager for advanced energy programs at the Ohio Third Frontier department of development, said this project was chosen because of the combination of technology and partnership.
“It’s interesting, something unique, and I haven’t seen many projects like this in Ohio,” McKay said.
He said this project, along with others, was sent to external evaluators, and this one was widely chosen.
McKay added that there is space in Ward Beecher Hall that will house the equipment purchased through the funds provided by the Ohio Third Frontier.
Simeonsson said the project would also provide an opportunity for students to work in method development and standard fuel testing.
“I’m very excited,” Simeonsson said. “Students can get a valuable experience working on a project like this.”
Hripko agreed that it would benefit students and the community.
“Going forward, we can expect a future with energy-based solutions,” Hripko said.
Schabel said he hopes this product is something companies will take interest in.
“Crude oil is around $80 a barrel,” Schabel said. “We’ll be able to produce around $39 billion in crude oil. We’re doing this with trash that people usually throw away.”