1998 Associate Laureate, Applied Technology
Czech Republic, Born 1938
Chromium salts are widely used in leather tanning. Usually the tanned wastes are not dangerous to health and are stockpiled in open-air dumps in the form of leather shavings. But acid rain, common across the industrial world, can leach harmless chromium from shavings into groundwater and transform it into deadly chromium that causes liver and bladder cancer.
Karel Kolomaznik, a Czech professor, has improved a technology that recovers the potentially dangerous chromium for reuse in the tanning cycle, and has shown it can be used on an industrial scale. He is now researching ways to make the tanning process completely waste-free.