September 25, 2002
Brookhaven Researcher Named “Innovator of the Year” by LI Business News
UPTON, NY — Paul Kalb, a research engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, will be one of seven Long Islanders honored as an “Innovator of the Year” by Long Island Business News at its fourth annual awards luncheon in Melville on October 2. A panel of judges from business and academia chose the innovators for this honor. Each innovator will receive an engraved sculpture in the shape of a light bulb.
Kalb won the honor for inventing a technology called Sulfur Polymer Stabilization/ Solidification (SPSS), which makes the disposal of mercury more practical and safe, compared to existing disposal methods. Brookhaven Lab has licensed this technology to Newmont Technologies Limited, an affiliate of Newmont Mining Corporation, the largest gold producer in North America. Mercury is a toxic byproduct of gold mining.
“I am pleased to be recognized for the mercury-waste clean-up technology,” Kalb said. “This has been a real team effort, and many colleagues have provided significant contributions to the ultimate success of the process. It is especially rewarding to see this technology advance from the laboratory to industry, where it is solving a real problem.”
In SPSS, toxic liquid mercury is mixed with sulfur-polymer cement and small amounts of additives in a heated vessel until all the mercury is converted into mercuric sulfide, a compound that has low solubility and low vapor pressure. This mixture is then poured into a mold in which it cools and solidifies. The resulting solid waste form immobilizes the mercury.
“Conventional amalgamation also stabilizes mercury,” Kalb explained, “but it transforms the element into a dispersible powder, which can be easily mobilized by wind and
groundwater. SPSS makes mercury easier and safer to handle and to dispose of, and it isolates the toxic metal from the environment.”
The SPSS method is based on a patented mixed-waste treatment technology developed at Brookhaven in 1997. Mixed waste consists of metals and/or chemicals as well as radioactive materials. This work, as well as development of the new method for mercury stabilization, was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Kalb holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology from the State University of New York at Binghamton, and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering and a certificate in energy policy and engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of New York.
At Brookhaven since 1980, Kalb heads environmental research and technology development in the Laboratory’s Environmental Sciences Department. He is listed as the co-inventor on seven U.S. patents. Kalb has coauthored several books on innovative technology for waste treatment and has written numerous peer-reviewed articles on waste encapsulation.