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Business

If Lehigh Tech has its way, there will be much gnashing and grinding of tires

Green tech innovator hawks new process for processing and reusing waste rubber.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Industrial giant Air Products -- which touches everything from gas refineries to healthcare equipment -- has licensed innovative grinding technology developed by Lehigh Technologies.

Air Products will use the mill to help customers who need "size reduction" services for all manner of materials -- including tires, certain plastics composites, construction materials and so on.

Atlanta-based Lehigh Tech, which has about 60 people on staff, is focused on the problem of who to reuse and recycle waste tires. Lehigh Tech CEO Alan Barton says while there are billion-dollar-industries industries and procedures for handling stuff including steel, paper, aluminum and plastics, there are few established business models associated with recycling -- or at least reusing -- rubber. Lehigh Tech has come up with a chemically inspired grinding/milling cryogenic process for changing this. Barton describes the technology as a "jet engine with teeth."

The ultra-fine materials that are left at the end of the process can be reused for many of the same applications where they started their lives -- in tires, building materials, asphalt and so on.

Lehigh Tech believes that it will have two sorts of primary customers for its milling technologies, those that intend to use the end-product as part of a closed loop manufacturing system, and recycling concerns that will collect the "raw" materials and market the ultra-fine by products as a service. Obviously, Air Products' stated intention through its new relationship is more of the latter.

Frankly speaking, I get pitched by lots of companies who want air time in this blog. I picked Lehigh Tech for coverage because #1, tires are pretty ubiquitous (you probably own at least four), and #2, because the company was named as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer by people who are a lot smarter than me.

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