Triumph for pollution-busting technology

25 Jun 2009 13:35:00.000

PA 177/09

An innovative commercial project based on pioneering research into mineral processing at The University of Nottingham has won an international award for its impact on industry. 

The project, ‘Microwave Exfoliation of Vermiculite’, won the Environmental Impact award from the UK’s leading body of research commercialisation professionals, UNICO. The awards recognise and celebrate the process of turning knowledge and expertise from research centres into real commercial products and services that benefit society and the economy.  

The University’s winning entry is a new and environmentally-friendly way of processing vermiculite, a widely-used mineral, and it is generating significant market interest. It links microwave expertise, market knowledge and funding sources to develop a new low-energy technology which is set to revolutionise the processing of this valuable commodity. Entries for the awards had to show that the project submitted had achieved, or had the potential to achieve, public impact and that knowledge transfer was a crucial part of that process.

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Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral widely used in fireproofing and horticultural markets.  The industry is a significant energy consumer that derives from the ‘exfoliation’ of the raw material into the low-weight, high-volume product. Traditionally this has been carried out in highly inefficient gas or oil-fired furnaces. Whilst microwave processing has shown significant promise in reducing energy consumption, a commercial process has never been developed.

Professor Sam Kingman and his team in the National Centre for Industrial Microwave Processing worked closely with the Technology Transfer Office at the University to successfully develop a unique process technology that consumes significantly less energy whilst also providing wider environmental and health and safety benefits such as reduced dust creation and compact footprint.

Professor Kingman said: “This award makes us all very proud. A key element of our success was engagement with key stakeholders and end users, in particular the Vermiculite Association and the Promat Research & Technology Centre.” 

Dr Richard Masterman, Director of Research Innovation Services at the University said: "We are very proud to receive this award which demonstrates how effectively our technology transfer office is working with our strong research base on delivering impact from their innovative work."

Professor David Secher, Chair of UNICO, said: “This project has the capacity to make a real difference. In this time of recession it is particularly important that we celebrate the achievements of successes such as this.”

IMPACT winners 2009

Business Impact Award, sponsored by BDO Stoy Hayward, winner is:

• Transitive from The University of Manchester Intellectual Property Ltd (UMIP) 

Environmental Impact Award, sponsored by Praxis, winner is:

• The microwave exfoliation of vermiculite from The University of Nottingham

Public Policy and Service Impact Award, sponsored by Research Councils UK, joint winners are:

• The Learning Needs Profiler© from Sancton Wood School/Anglia Ruskin University

• IMPACT — the International Health Impact Assessment Consortium, and IMPACT+ from The University of Liverpool 

For more information on The Impact Awards visit, or email, or call 01223 422085


  — Ends —


Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008. 

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives ( in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City. 

About Unico 

Unico is the UK's leading representative body of professionals realising the potential of university and public sector research through commercialisation.

Unico members maximise the impact of UK research to benefit society and strengthen the economy. On a daily basis they identify markets for research discoveries, protect intellectual property, license new research, create quality 'spinout' companies and provide businesses with world-class expertise and facilities.

The Impact Award sponsors 

• Business Impact Award — BDO Stoy Hayward LLP, UK member firm of BDO International, the

world's fifth largest accountancy network

• Public Policy and Service Impact Award — Research Councils UK, the strategic partnership of

the UK's seven Research Councils

• Environmental Impact Award — Praxis Courses Ltd, providers of inspirational training courses for knowledge transfer and commercialisation professionals

More University of Nottingham news: http://communications/ 

Story credits

More information is available from Dr George Rice, Research Innovation Services on +44 (0)115 823 2190,

Emma Rayner - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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