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Concord Faculty Member Earns United States Patent

Concord Faculty Member Earns United States Patent

Athens, W.Va. - Dr. Darrell Crick, assistant professor of chemistry recently earned a patent from the United States government for a new process that will save energy and increase safety in the chemical industry. The discovery he worked on became US Patent Number 6,833,463, and is called “Transesterification Using Phase Transfer Catalysis.”

Most of the work that went into Crick earning the patent was done prior to his arrival at Concord University. While working for a company called PTC Organics, Inc., Crick and the owner of the company, Dr. Marc Halpern, came up with the idea and completed most of the research and the initial patent application process. After coming to the institution, Crick continued to provide input on both the presently issued patent and another that has not yet been issued.

PTC Organics, Inc. specializes in improving the synthesis of commercially important compounds using technology called phase-transfer catalysis. This technology creates an opportunity for reactions to occur between compounds that do not dissolve in one another by transferring a small amount of the first compound into the second.

Using this technology, Crick discovered a way to perform a reaction between two compounds at a much lower temperature than anyone else had ever done, resulting in significant energy conservation and increased safety.

“The project came out of a brainstorming session between myself and the owner of the company, Dr. Marc Halpern, who is the world’s leading expert on industrial phase-transfer catalysis. This project was particularly interesting because of the large volume of material produced and the high potential to save large quantities of energy,” Crick said.

Crick’s discovery began with a small-scale scouting experiment conducted in a vial. After finding promising results, an official project was started at PTC Organics that took almost a year to complete.

“The reaction that we studied is called a ‘transesterification’ and is used for producing monoglycerides and diglycerides from vegetable oil and glycerin. Millions of pounds of the monoglycerides and diglycerides are used each year in the food industry and elsewhere,” Crick explained.

Before Crick’s discovery, prior technology required that any mixtures of vegetable oil and glycerin be heated to over 392 degrees Fahrenheit for a reaction to occur. PTC Organics discovered with the addition of about one (1) percent of a phase-transfer catalyst that the reaction could occur at a temperature less than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It is important to note that the technology is not limited to a single reaction, but can be applied to most transesterification reactions between compounds that do not dissolve in each other,” Crick continued.

Although Crick’s classes at Concord University do not deal directly with the transesterification process, he is still able to use his work to show how chemistry is not always abstract.

“While I don't discuss this particular reaction in class, I do try to point out practical uses of concepts that are discussed. Chemistry can seem very abstract at times, so I try to connect the theory that we discuss in class with real-world uses. I think that students are a bit more motivated when they realize that the concepts being discussed can be used to produce pharmaceuticals and other highly-specialized materials,” Crick explained.

“I believe Dr. Crick is Concord's first faculty member to receive a patent for his research efforts. He is a wonderful example of the teaching, research and service accomplishments of the Concord University faculty,” said Dr. Dean Turner, vice president and academic dean.

For more information, contact Dr. Crick at 1-800-344-6679 extension 5169, 1-304-384-5169, or


CONCORD UNIVERSITY NOTES: Jesse Call, a junior majoring in political science and history, wrote this press release. His hometown is Pocahontas, Va.