GM donation enables MSU to further develop soil cleanup technology

Contact: Michael Dybas, MSU Civil and Environmental Engineering, (517) 355-2254,; Scott Fosgard, GM Advanced Technology Communications, (586) 899-2582,; Susan Garavaglia, GM Advanced Technology Communications, (313) 378-9335,; or Tom Oswald, University Relations, (517) 355-2281 or

Nov 14, 2003

EAST LANSING, Mich. - General Motors Corp. donated five patents today to Michigan State University,a gift that will assist in the development of technologies that clean contaminated soil and groundwater without the need to remove it, enabling a site cleanup in potentially one-tenth the time of conventional approaches.

The donation was accepted by the MSU Board of Trustees at its Nov. 14 meeting.

The main advantage of GM's patented technology is that it allows the soil to be treated without being excavated and transported.

"The patents donated by General Motors complement and augment the research portfolio of MSU," said Provost Lou Anna K. Simon. "The inclusion of the technologies represented by these patents and the research already underway by our faculty, provide greater opportunities for more rapid progress in the development of ways to improve the quality of our land and water."

"GM's patented technologies accelerate the cleanup process by providing a seven-fold increase in the amount of oxygen that is dissolved in the ground to decompose the contaminants, typically hydrocarbon-based organic materials," said Alan Taub, executive director of GM's Research and Development Science Labs. "MSU's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is considered an expert in bioremediation, and they are well equipped to further develop the patented technologies for commercial application."

"Researchers in our group at MSU have been involved in several pilot and field scale demonstrations of in situ bioremediation," said Michael Dybas, an MSU assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. "In this work, finding a way to deliver growth substrates is a major challenge. Technologies such as those donated by GM offer exciting options for efficient and cost-effective nutrient delivery, and thus can reduce the costs of site cleanup."

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has documented more than 200,000 sites in the United States that have contaminated soil. A significant number of those sites could benefit from this technology once fully developed and commercialized.

GM successfully tested their bioremediation technologies over a 10-year period at three GM sites with underground storage tanks. During one specific site evaluation, the GM technologies increased the oxygen concentration in the groundwater by a factor of 7, which reduced cleanup to three months instead of several years without this technology. After the test, the soil contaminants were transformed into environmentally friendly materials, leaving the site ready for future utilization.

"We are pleased to make donations of patent portfolios that we are not using in our core business but can provide further research opportunities for universities interested in exploring the technology for its strong commercial potential," Taub said.

MSU has agreed to maintain the patents in force for a minimum of two years, while continuing to support research in this area and pursuing the licensing of the donated patents.

MSU spends hundreds of millions of dollars on research and holds hundreds of patents, many of which are licensed out each year. Among U.S. universities, MSU ranked sixth nationally in fiscal year 2001 for royalties received - the last year for which comparative figures are available - with royalties of more than $30 million.

General Motors Corp., the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, employs 341,000 people globally in its core automotive business and subsidiaries. Founded in 1908, GM has been the global automotive sales leader since 1931. GM today has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in more than 190 countries.

More information on GM and its products can be found on the company's consumer website at