|Credit: C&EN/George Adjabeng|
condenser chiller (story by Marc Reisch, registration required):
[George] Adjabeng’s experience with rotovaps started at Ghana’s University of Cape Coast. After graduating in 2001, he received an M.S. degree in organic chemistry from Ontario’s Brock University and went to work for Roche in California. From 2004 to 2011, he worked for GlaxoSmithKline in North Carolina where he was a discoverer of Tafinlar, a drug that treats advanced melanoma.
“I used rotovaps while I was in school and at work,” Adjabeng says. At times, he says, “I’d spend all day going back and forth getting dry ice to recharge the rotovap condenser.” He left GSK to get a business degree because, he says, “I didn’t want to be in the lab for the rest of my career.” During his studies, he was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. “I met people who had started up university-research-based spin-outs,” he says.
Seeking a technology of his own, Adjabeng recalled his experience in the lab and conceived of the EcoChyll. He also sought out people familiar with refrigeration technology and worked with the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University to develop the prototype he is now testing with potential users. Adjabeng and his friend initially funded development of the EcoChyll out of their own pockets. More recently, an angel investor kicked in $100,000.
Planning to test the EcoChyll in his lab is University of California, Berkeley, chemistry professor Richmond Sarpong. Given California’s water shortage, Sarpong notes, tap water cooling is rarely used. “But we use a lot of dry ice. It’s expensive and not the most sustainable thing,” he says.The article goes on to say that he plans to charge somewhere in the $9,000-$12,000 range, which is kinda pricey, but hey! I'm not an entrepreneur and George Adjabeng is. Best wishes to him.
(I presume the problem is this: Mr. Adjabeng's product appears to be aimed at the small chemical business and academic market. It would be interesting to know how many chemistry professors care about dry ice consumable usage. (I certainly know that small chemical business do, but how many of those are there?) How many new rotovaps does Buchi sell in a year in the United States, and beyond? How many of those are run by water-based condensers, as opposed to dry ice, or antifreeze-based recirculating chillers?)