MOVA plans to recycle components from exhaust

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Steve Critchfield was surprised at being named Entrepreneur of the Year.
Photo by Don Petersen

 Steve Critchfield didn’t expect to be the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council Entrepreneur of the Year.

“I was surprised,” he says. “I really was. I’m not saying that because that’s what you’re supposed to say in Hollywood.

“I really did not think much about it because I’ve been doing this since ’86 and probably before that. I didn’t know what the word ‘entrepreneur’ meant until recently, but I enjoy doing this stuff.”

What Critchfield has been doing is creating companies and solving problems. In 1986, he founded Tele-Works, a company that enabled electronic payments to local governments across the United States and beyond. Since selling the company in 2014, he has helped other startups get organized and succeed, helped start a Virginia Tech program offering graduate-level training for aspiring local government officials and assisted in establishing scholarships and awards at Tech.

Critchfield’s initial vision and motivation of Tele-Works was not so grand. “I didn’t start the company to be an entrepreneur or even sell it,” he says. “I started the company because I needed a job.”

Critchfield’s current company, MOVA Technologies, aims a little higher. The goal of the Pulaski-based business is to turn toxic and climate-changing air pollution into commodities with a market of $500 billion or more.

MOVA uses technology developed by the late Arthur Squires, a Virginia Tech professor who began his career working on the Manhattan Project that developed the first nuclear bomb. MOVA intends to capture the components of the exhaust from burning fossil fuels. Those components — including mercury, lead, arsenic and carbon — then would be recycled.

Many organizations have attempted to capture and store carbon, including American Electric Power’s Mountaineer Plant project that closed in 2012, the same year Squires died. None of those attempts have managed to accomplish the task in a way that is economically feasible, Critchfield says.

“Everybody can capture carbon, or at least they think they can,” he says. “But what they’ve been trying to do is sequester it.”

MOVA means to market it. The next step toward that end is building and testing a prototype of the pollutant-capturing apparatus. Once that’s done, Critchfield plans to market the technology to chemical companies that can manufacture the sorbents used to capture the components. Four-year-old MOVA is “probably two years away from that point,” he says.

The patents for the process are owned by a trust, Critchfield says, and 25 percent of any profits will support Virginia Tech engineering and agriculture programs and art programs across Southwest Virginia.

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