Compadre, a transport packaging design center based in Austin, Texas, obtained an exclusive license to pursue commercial uses for AeroClay, an innovative technology developed by Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

About two years ago, executives of Compadre became fascinated with the research of David Schiraldi, professor and chair of the Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering at Case Western Reserve. Schiraldi and his lab team developed AeroClay—the trademarked name for an array of lightweight, durable and environmentally friendly aerogel materials.

AeroClay technology uses freeze-drying and polymer additives to turn clay into a versatile material that is sturdy, malleable, heat- and flame-resistant and eco-friendly. It can be used as an absorbent, insulator, packing material, industrial catalyst or even as an electrical conductor. 

The transformational license significantly advances the technology from its initial startup phase, making AeroClay LLC a subsidiary of Compadre.

"Instinctively, we thought that this is something that can make a big difference," says Darryl Kelinske, chief executive officer of Compadre. "Dave Schiraldi has done an incredible job of advancing the technology. Now we have to catch up with the marketplace and the supply chain."

The key is to identify a market niche and provide a product that fills a need inexpensively, Kelinske says.

"What we bring to the table is a company that's been around for 16 years,” Kelinske says. “The foundation is laid already. We will devote resources to commercializing a technology.”

Although AeroClay will be part of Compadre, Schiraldi's lab will have a role in the research and development of AeroClay products.

"This license agreement creates a wonderful model within our educational enterprise that allows us to show our undergraduate and graduate students how a dozen years of research is being transformed to commercial products," Schiraldi says.