Collaboration Looks to Clean up Contaminated Water

Claude Kennard (MGT '91) says he founded MAR Systems, a clean water technology company headquartered in Solon, OH, to develop a faster, cheaper and greener solution to clean up contaminated water streams, particularly with regards to mercury.

Working hand-in-hand with the company to achieve that goal is Case Western Reserve University Macromolecular Science and Engineering Chair David Schiraldi, PhD, and his research team. MAR Systems funding supports one of Schiraldi's postdoctoral fellows and supports the surface analysis of a proprietary material for MAR Systems.

Kennard says the company's relationship with the university has allowed him to tap into capabilities that would not otherwise be available. "We needed to work with a partner that could handle the rigors of our research. Dave (Schiraldi's) team combined the intellectual know-how with real-world application. We have been able to bring our project from experimentation to lab scale to manufacturing," he says.

Schiraldi adds, "This is an excellent, real-world problem that brings together some fundamental science, which when understood will allow the industrial sponsor to improve their product. This specific problem also takes advantage of one of Case Western Reserve's strengths, surface analysis. Overall, this is an ideal corporate-university partnership."

MAR Systems is also working with the university through its use of The Swagelok Center for Surface Analysis of Materials, which gives Kennard and his team access to the resources they need to perform high-level analysis. The Swagelok Center is a multi-user analytical facility providing instrumentation for microstructural characterization of materials as well as surface and near-surface chemical analysis. "The instrumentation that the Swagelok Center possesses is state-of-the-art," Kennard says. "The engineers are very knowledgeable of the capabilities of not only their equipment, but of the breadth of instrumentation available. None of this is something that we could have funded ourselves."

One key feature of the center is its flexible operational model, which allows industrial users to be trained to use the equipment themselves, if they so prefer, like MAR Systems.

A significant portion of the recent major equipment additions to the Center have come from Ohio's Third Frontier program, further demonstrating the Center's benefit to Ohio academia and industry. The Swagelok Center has been expanding its remit for years beyond the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. This is an excellent example of the multidisciplinary activity at Case Western Reserve between two engineering departments and MAR Systems.

The collaboration with Case Western Reserve helped MAR Systems validate its move to a synthetic route for its material. This validation contributed to MAR successfully attracting a $1.5 million investment led by Cleveland-based Early Stage Partners.

The genesis of MAR Systems can actually be traced to an Enterprise Scholar relationship with then, Case Western Reserve MBA candidate Brent Boyd (MGT '99), that Kennard met many years ago. Boyd's work at NASA led to an early interaction with Kennard that germinated some of the seeds that helped with the development of MAR's products. MAR's technology was initially developed in collaboration with the United States Environmental Protection Agency which has led to three patents, with several others currently pending.

In addition to Kennard, MAR Systems boasts two other Case Western Reserve alumni among its executive level: CEO Tony Lammers (MGT '91) and CTO Tony Kuhel (CIT '74).

Kennard says his positive business interactions with the university also led to his recent commitment to join the university's Corporate Visiting Committee, an advisory group of corporate executives. He says he is excited to help provide guidance and is looking forward to helping to steer Case Western Reserve—keeping the institution strong for generations to come.

Kennard says that his participation on the committee will add to the committee's much-valued diversity of input. "The willingness of the university to listen to a wider array of its alums from far-ranging disciplines will add considerable value and guidance as Case Western Reserve expands its current curriculum and/or rolls out new initiatives," he says.