Scaling up this floating coil: Meet the new prototype in electromagnetic oil spill remediation technology

Many Fermilab followers are aware that Fermilab’s Office of Partnerships & Technology Transfer licensed the laboratory’s electromagnetic oil spill remediation technology to Natural Science LLC in 2015. This agreement enabled Natural Science, led by physicist and inventor Arden Warner, to design and develop a novel electromagnetic technology for cleaning oil spills. A key milestone of the agreement was to produce the first prototype and then move toward commercialization.

That prototype is now here. The concept that started as demonstrations with water, oil and magnetite in a 9-ounce cup has developed into a full-scale device. With Natural Science’s permission, we are sharing some images of this full-scale prototype below.

As you can see, the technology has come a long way from the permanent magnet demonstration videos you may have seen years ago when this was a mere concept. The system includes a scalable string of floating solenoid modules feeding a magnetic ramp and separator apparatus. Much engineering has gone into making these components work together as an oil spill solution.

Fermilab and Natural Science LLC have reached an agreement to develop a novel electromagnetic technology for cleaning oil spills. Fermilab patent and licensing executive Aaron Sauers, left, and physicist and inventor Arden Warner, who leads Natural Science, shake hands. Photo: Reidar Hahn, Fermilab

Earlier this month, the Natural Science equipment had its first large-scale test at Ohmsett— the National Oil Spill Response & Renewable Energy Test Facility, located in Leonardo, New Jersey — a facility, where among other things, oil spill remediation ideas are evaluated and developed.

This patented concept shows how basic research like that done at Fermilab inspires and leads to spinoff ideas with real-world applications. To discuss how you might protect your ideas and potentially bring them to market, contact the Fermilab Office of Partnerships & Technology Transfer.

Aaron Sauers is Fermilab’s patent and licensing executive.

  • Arden Warner explains his electromagnetic oil spill remediation technology. Photo: Reidar Hahn, Fermilab