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The Daily Tar Heel

Patent Donations May Flush Out Hard Water

The patents, known collectively as the Enhanced Water Softening Technology, are estimated to bring in more than $100 million annually to the University and might bring about a new solution for treating hard water.

Hard water contains high levels of calcium or magnesium that erodes plumbing and can cause health problems.

"We are delighted that Procter & Gamble chose UNC-Chapel Hill to develop this technology," said Chancellor James Moeser at a press conference Monday morning.

Paul Poleman, president of Global Fabric Care at Procter & Gamble, said that by donating the patents to the University and allowing UNC researchers to develop the technology, the solution to hard water could quickly become a reality.

"By donating patents to UNC, the technology can be done faster," Poleman said, adding that UNC will be the sole owners of the technology.

"Hard water makes washing a difficult task because it limits the amount of lather."

He also said hard water creates buildup in pipes and boilers, which shortens an appliance's life span.

Poleman said the Environmental Protection Agency has linked hard water to health concerns such as kidney stones.

Philip Singer, professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the School of Public Health, will lead the program and research effort to eliminate hard water.

Singer explained that the build up of calcium is the main cause of hard water. "The Enhanced Water Softening Technology introduces specially treated calcium carbonate crystals to the water supply, which will capture calcium ions and filter them out," Singer said.

He said the process is beneficial because the crystals are recyclable, less costly and could be used in developing countries.

The recent donation is a main focus of the technology transfer program directed by Mark Crowell, associate vice chancellor and director of the Office of Technology Development.

Crowell said the technology transfer program relays University-developed technology to private sectors so the technology can quickly lead to new products, services and jobs.

Crowell said he is very pleased with the interactive relationship between the University and corporations.

"Chancellor Moeser's vision for this program and Procter & Gamble's goals seem to mesh perfectly," Crowell said. "We look forward to the challenges and opportunities of this very important gift."

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