An unlikely transformative genius

If you watched “60 Minutes” on CBS last night, you may have seen the interview with Lesley Stahl and a game changing self-made scientist named Marshall Medoff. This 81 year-old, eccentric inventor has researched and created a breakthrough idea that will help move the dial on biomass energy, plastics and even sugar. What you might ask?

Medoff has succeeded in the release of cellulose that is ingrained in all plant products in an elegant fashion. Where MIT and others have failed to cost effectively do so, he has developed the concept of using an electron beam accelerator to blast the cellulose out of the plant materials. This is fascinating enough, but this man is a self-taught scientist. And, to add to the story even more, he came to the idea at Walden Pond in Massachusetts, where he lives nearby. What a great place to think of how to unleash the power of plants.

Yet, Medoff’s invention is beyond the idea stage. Investors are so enthralled, they have invested in his company called Xyleco and there is a facility in Moss Lake, WA in production. This place employs trained and educated chemical scientists and engineers. He also has a testing facility in Massachusetts near where he lives, employing many scientists from MIT and elsewhere.

On his Board of Directors are Bob Armstrong, the former head of MIT’s chemistry department and Steven Chu, the former Director of Energy under President Obama, and several other known advisors, including John Jennings, the former CEO of Shell. They all claim this man is an Edison-like genius, who is a tad eccentric. And, as Armstrong pointed out MIT and others have failed to do what he has done.

These Board members echo his enthusiasm to make a 30% or so dent in the energy business with a 77% more efficient biomass fuel than ethanol. Also, with petroleum-based plastic a huge issue on the environment, one of his scientists demonstrated a plant-based plastic that can have a planned disintegration at the end of its usefulness.  And, if that were not enough, a sugar byproduct called xylose, or wood sugar, is less in calories and has a smaller impact on teeth.

If it were April Fool’s Day, this would seem like a great story to fool people with. The exciting part is Medoff is legitimate. A key side bar is fifteen years ago, he decided to work on this problem to fight climate change. So, he read everything on the subject. And, then started putting together ideas and patents. One of his Board members said this eccentric old man had the confidence that he could do this. That can-do attitude is part of a genius’ make-up.


12 thoughts on “An unlikely transformative genius

  1. While my eyes tend to glaze over when anything scientific is mentioned, from what I can understand, this man is a genius! And obviously a legitimate one, for all those highly skilled and notable scientists would not be on board if they didn’t think his ideas are workable solutions to some of our most pressing problems today. Thank you for sharing this, my friend! Some good news for a change!

    • Jill, I was truly flabbergasted by this. The way the piece started out, I felt where is this going? Then, when it switched to production, it leveraged up a notch. I was so impressed with his self-taught learning from reading. Keith

  2. I’m sorry I missed that interview Keith, it’s amazing. It really gives us hope that perhaps another Hawking or even a self taught genius will appear in the scene with some astounding solutions to our manyissues!

    • Holly, so true. This is why we must continue to be accepting of talented immigrants and students on visa going to universities here. You just never know where the ideas will come from. Keith

      • Holly, this what is so puzzling. Innovation drives industry. Hugh and I have chatted that if energy companies do not adapt, they could get passed by. To me, it is telling that a former Shell CEO is on the Xyleco board. Keith

  3. Dear Keith,

    WOW! What an exciting true story. He could be the one to move the needle forward in the climate change battle. I’m thrilled to learn that he is garnering so many competent help and backing. I will never forget that name, Xyleco. I expect this to be the next big major company.

    As per CBS news, One of his remarkable inventions, releases plant sugars that he’s now using to make products he claims will solve some of the world’s most intractable problems, affecting not just the environment but also our health. One of the plant sugars is called xylose and Medoff says it could reduce obesity and diabetes, since it is consumable, and low in calories.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Janis, good point. In case you need help deciding, your choice is to watch an innovative man who has made a demonstrable break through or a man who will bombastically lie to get money for an oversold solution to an exaggerated problem. Keith

  4. Reading this off line, so next time on line the link will take me to the next step. Eccentric is good – helps us to stay light hearted even when discussing serious topics. — Sounds great, and the enthusiasm in your post makes me smile! It’s infectious!

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