Inventor Spotlight: Scott Osborn
Scott Osborn, associate professor of engineering, focuses his research on innovation in water treatment, craft brewing industries and entrepreneurship.
Osborn has received numerous awards and honors during his career. In 2016 he was named the Engineer of the Year by the Arkansas section of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. He was selected in recognition of his exceptional achievements in teaching and for his leadership in developing new curricula in the rapidly developing area of biological engineering and in reform of engineering education to more fully integrate design and discovery-based learning.
In 2004, Osborn ventured into entrepreneurship. He co-founded and launched BlueInGreen LLC, a company that sells equipment to dissolve oxygen, ozone and carbon dioxide into water for treatment of waste, drinking and environmental water. This equipment is made to provide water professionals with the lowest combination of risk and costs while improving the quality of life for people, communities and the planet. BlueInGreen received the Innovative Technology Award from the Water Environment Federation as well as the Global Cleantech Cluster Association Later Stage Grand Prize. With over 100 installations worldwide, this technology has made an economic impact of $54 million since inception.
BlueInGreen LLC continues to expand, and since 2016 the company has grown at a rate of over 45%, with growing numbers each year. Valued at $20 million, the company was sold to a Georgia-based manufacturer Chart Industries in November of 2020. This groundbreaking technology treats more than 1 billion gallons of water per day and continues to transform water treatment all over the globe.
Most recently, Osborn has focused his research on the improvement of craft brewing carbonation processes. Targeting craft brewing businesses, he found that there was a great deal of frustration with the current carbonation processes. They were slow, inaccurate, costly, wasteful and reduced the desirable flavor of the beer.
"They can waste up to about half of the CO2 that they are buying," Osborn said. "That is not only wasted expense, but also a greenhouse gas."
Osborn's invention, the Carbo Rock-It, reduced carbonation time from 72 to six hours while dramatically increasing the accuracy of the target CO2 concentration. The Carbo Rock-It also uses 50% less gas than current methods and prevents stripping of the "nose" of the beer by eliminating bubbles that can also strip out flavor volatiles that give beer subtle tastes, Osborn said. Osborn worked with Core Brewing Co. and other local craft breweries to operate the system in a production setting. Data from this testing demonstrated the cost savings and improved quality of the process. Flavor testing conducted in the Food Science Department at the U of A showed beer carbonated by the Carbo Rock-It had significantly greater hop and floral volatiles than that carbonated using current bubbling technology.
The process has been patented and Osborn has built a commercially functional, food-grade carbonization unit to serve as a model for interested breweries. Osborn founded a company, Carbo Rock-It LLC, to further develop and commercialize this technology. To date, the Carbo Rock-It has produced more than 112,000 six-packs of spiked seltzer and beer enjoyed by the public.
Osborn added, "I really appreciate the help of the UA Technology Ventures team. The development of the Carbo Rock-It has been supported by them every step of the way. I also want to thank the generous support of $100,000 from the UA Chancellor's Commercialization Fund provided by a gift from the Walton Family Foundation."
In support of his innovative endeavors at the U of A, Osborn has submitted 12 invention disclosures and is the named inventor on six U.S. patents and six international patents (Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand) covering his water treatment technologies and two U.S. patents with one pending related to the carbonation technology.
Osborn is a true inspiration for today's entrepreneurs and engineers, and Technology Ventures is delighted to have him as an inventor at the U of A.
About Technology Ventures: The University of Arkansas Technology Ventures, part of the Division of Economic Development, manages, protects and commercializes the intellectual property and research tool portfolio of the University of Arkansas. Technology Ventures serves the university's faculty, staff and students as well as external inventors and entrepreneurs to disseminate technology, innovations, products, creative works and knowledge to the public market to generate revenue and future research support. In this way, Technology Ventures also serves the public as it is our responsibility to enable public utilization of products derived from university research.
David Hinton, associate director
Andy Albertson, senior director of communications
Research and Economic Development
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