Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Environmental Health Sciences

First Advisor

Jamie Lead


Technology transfer is a process by which an innovative technology, typically produced in a non-commercial setting such as academia, is developed into a potential market opportunity. The first phase of technology transfer, once a technology has been developed, is to identify a customer segment and determine a value proposition that describes what need the technology will fulfill for them. This phase has been systematized into a framework known as customer discovery. Success in customer discovery will indicate technological gaps, such as scale-up, prototyping, and realistic testing, that are needed to deliver the value proposition to the initial customer. Both phases of technology transfer are discussed in this dissertation, as relates to nanotechnology developed at the University of South Carolina for environmental applications. Nanotechnology is rapidly growing, as the properties of nanomaterials promise to transform many industrial and environmental remediation processes. However, there have been few instances of successful commercialization in the field to date. In this project, a stabilized nanoparticle technology with high affinity for crude oil hydrocarbons was subjected to the technology transfer process. Oil has been, and will likely continue to be, one of the largest sources of pollution worldwide. Despite spill prevention infrastructure and oil spill response frameworks, oil spills occur every day and many are left untreated. An initial customer discovery effort produced data from 156 semi-structured interviews which enabled development of a Bayesian matching algorithm capable of validating customer segment – value proposition pairs. Furthermore, these interviews provided guidance on technical research and development aims. Based on prior research, a massively parallel continuous synthesis process was prototyped as an initial step towards producing nanoparticles on a commercial scale. An extensible multi-channel peristaltic pump was demonstrated and shown to increase synthesis throughput four-fold, in addition to substantial cost savings. A high-gradient magnetic separation process, developed in previous studies of nanoparticle deployment, was further optimized in preparation for scale-up and pilot tests. This study showed treatment of oil concentrations up to 10,000 parts per million and illustrated substantial improvement in oil removal capacity than previously observed. These research and development projects have produced significant progress in terms of both commercialization and broader scientific literature, as they are also relevant and generalizable to production and deployment of other nanoparticles.


© 2023, Paul Michael Vecchiarelli

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