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Sierra Daily

Oct 11, 2011

Now You’ll Know Who Wendy Schmidt Is

Oil-spill-x-prize-2 elastec_41438_600x450Whaddaya mean you’ve never heard of the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge? (Or Wendy Schmidt, for that matter?) Schmidt is the wife of Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of  Google – oh  yeah, that Google – and president of the Schmidt Family Foundation, which just happens to have a keen interest in clean energy and natural resource issues.

Prompted by the the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, earlier this year the foundation sponsored the Oil Cleanup X Challenge, an effort “to inspire a new generation of innovative solutions that will speed the pace of cleaning up seawater surface oil resulting from spillage from ocean platforms, tankers, and other sources.” Today, a $1 million first-prize winner was announced: Elastec/American Marine, a manufacturer of oil spill equipment based in the tiny (population: 5,240) southern Illinois town of Carmi. According to National Geographic News, Team Elastec “developed giant grooved discs that skimmed oil more than three times better than the industry standard.” A second prize of $300,000 went to a team from NOFI, a manufacturer of fisheries-related equipment based in Tromso, Norway. (With a population of just over 68,000, Tromso is apparently “the capital of Northern Norway.”) Team NOFI created a V-shaped flexible boom that captures 2,712 gallons of oil per minute and attained an efficiency of 83 percent. (A third-place prize was not awarded, because only the top two met the challenge’s standard of reaching an oil-recovery rate of at least 2,500 gallons per minute with an efficiency ratio of at least 70 percent oil-to-water.)

The ten finalists in the Oil Cleanup X Challenge duked it out at the very impressive National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility in Leonardo, New Jersey (population: 2,757).

-- Reed McManus

Image: X Prize Foundation. Team Elastec’s winning design.

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