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Archimedes' Dialogue Project

Porous Wall Hollow Glass Microspheres

About this Dialogue

Porous Walled Hollow Glass Microspheres (which are about half the width of a human hair in diameter) have a network of interconnected pores that enable them to be filled with, hold and release gases and other materials. The walls act as a protective bubble, allowing the microsphere to hold reactive or flammable absorbents or stored materials -- including solids, liquids or gases.

Hollow glass microspheres have typically been used for applications such as lightweight filler material, insulation and abrasives. But by creating openings in the microspheres' walls, the Energy Department's Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) has helped widen the possibilities for use.  The new technology has already elicited five separate patent filings.

About the Speaker

Dr. George Wicks recently retired after working 40 years, from the Savannah River National Laboratory, at the position of Consulting Scientist, the highest technical level in the organization. He now serves as an independent Consultant with his own company (Wicks Consulting Services, LLC), works with the Applied Research Center in SC spinning out new hi-tech businesses, and also is Adjunct Prof. at GA Health Sciences Univ./ GA Regents Univ. For four decades, Dr. Wicks has been involved in many areas of science and engineering, including vitrification and management of high-level radioactive wastes, in which he is considered an international expert. He has also been heavily involved in many other areas and disciplines, including environmental remediation, sensor development, corrosion of materials, hydrogen storage systems, alternative and renewable energy, nuclear disarmament activities, C&B agents, hybrid microwave technology, and a variety of new medical initiatives. He has given many presentations in a variety of forums and since retiring early last year, has provided invited lectures in the US, India, China and Italy and at universities such as the Ohio State University, University of California- Irvine, VA Tech, and now, USC-Aiken.

Since receiving his advanced degrees from Harvard Univ. and MIT, Dr. Wicks has worked extensively in many areas of ceramics and glass science during his career. Many of his contributions have involved the nuclear community and include development of the first ëSlurry Feeding Systemí for vitrification of the 34 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in the more than billion dollar Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF), now in production. He has also been very active in leaching studies of nuclear glasses and in assessing chemical durability of waste products and systems. He is co-author of the SRL Kinetic Leachability Model [Wallace-Wicks Model] describing leaching behavior of the complex 40-component SRS waste glass system and also, he designed, developed and coordinated, the first major international in-situ testing program in the US, involving seven countries and burial of simulated nuclear waste systems from around the world. Dr. Wicks is also co-inventor of Sol-Gel Indicators, a new class of composite materials that can be fabricated into sensors, and integrated into important fiber optic, analytical monitoring devices for environmental measurements and other uses, including medical applications. He is co-inventor of Sol-Gel Metal Hydrides and Porous-Walled Hollow Glass Microspheres, composites which have the ability to store unusually large amounts of hydrogen, both reversible and very effectively and for the glass microspheres, also providing a unique drug delivery tool. The team and its microsphere technology received an R&D 100 Award in 2011 and in 2012, was voted ìTop Honorsî at the NNSA Symposium on ìDiscovery and Innovationî. He is also co-inventor of a new Hybrid Microwave Technology, with the ability to remediate hazardous components and reclaim reusable metals, and also conduct decontamination of law enforcement equipment and materials, while retaining forensic signatures. Dr. Wicks has published a considerable amount of work in these various areas, which includes more than 200 publications and 16 patents issued, to date. He also authored or co-authored 7 books and 9 invited chapters in texts and encyclopedias, and served as co-chairman for more than a dozen international meetings. He has also served as 2012-11 President of the American Ceramic Society (ACerS), been on the ACerS Board of Directors, past President of the National Institute of Ceramic Engineers, been a member of the U.S. Materials Review Board and been Adjunct Professor to Clemson University and the University of Florida, as well as serving on Advisory Boards to Clemson, Univ. of SC, VA Tech and the GA Health Sciences University. He has also served as a member of the DuPont Corporate Ceramics Board and testified on technical aspects of waste management and weapons dismantlement activities for various committees, including those of the National Academy of Sciences, and served on a NATO team that traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia to discuss ìDisposal of Weapons Plutoniumî. Dr. Wicks also served on various International Scientific Advisory Boards involving radioactive waste management activities in France (CEA) and also the European Communities (EC). He also was the technical lead working with the medical community on a new series of initiatives involving unique technologies developed within the nuclear field, which are now being tailored and applied for uses in the medical field in areas of diagnostics, repair/ replacement of body parts, and therapy/ treatment of a variety of medical conditions.

Among his many honors include receiving the South Carolina Academy of Science/ SC Governorís Award for Excellence in Scientific Research, Alpha Sigma Mu International Honorary Societyís ìDistinguished Life Memberî Award, SRS Career Achievement Award, CNTA Distinguished Scientist of the Year, R&D 100 Award, the Joan Hodges Queaneau Palladium Medal, George Westinghouse Gold Corporate Award, 2 Westinghouse Signature Awards as well as the Westinghouse Innovators Award, and ACerS awards include the Greaves Walker Award, Arthur L. Friedberg Memorial Lecturer and the D.T. Rankin Award. Most recently in June of 2014, he was inducted into the World Academy of Ceramics in Montecatini Terme, Italy, and in October of 2014, he will be further honored, by being named Distinguished Life Member of the American Ceramic Society, considered the ìmost prestigious awardî in the more than 100-year old organization.

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