Do you remember what you were getting into when you were a teenager? Trouble perhaps?

Unlike most UT freshman, 19-year-old Karan Jerath of Friendswood, Texas, may well have created something that could stop the next oil disaster.

Inspired by the BP oil spill in 2010, Jerath worked tirelessly on his idea throughout high school and eventually won the 2015 Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award, a prestigious science fair with the winner taking home $50,000. And now, Jerath has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 in the energy sector.

Jerath says he created a device that cleans oil spills in the sub-sea environment. He says cofferdams, used during the Deepwater Horizon spill, had a hollow tube to cover the leaking well heads. But because methane hydrates formed, and the flow rate was too high, it couldn’t function properly.

“Ever since that idea, it’s sort of been abandoned,” he says. “I saw the potential in it and decided to continue that same concept but tweak it in a way to where my device is able to do even more.”

His automated steel device, 75 feet high with a 42-foot diameter, sits over the leaking well head a mile or so below the surface, collecting oil, water and gas together as a mixture. He developed the idea during an independent study course at his high school.

“You basically come up with your own solution to a problem based off of whatever you feel most passionate about,” he says. “Through research and trial-and-error with experimentation, I sort of came about this idea and decided to pursue it, to see how far I could go with it.”

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