TRIADELPHIA - Brian Joseph isn't one to sit back and relive the glory days.
During the past 30 years, Joseph and those he employs at Touchstone Research Laboratory have developed products such as CFOAM, a coal-based product that has defense applications; CSTONE, another coal-based product that can be used to reinforce runways; MetPreg, a lightweight, fiber-enhanced product that is three times stronger than aluminum; and countless others.
An engineer by trade, Joseph serves as Touchstone's president and chief executive officer. He recently unveiled the firm's next big idea: producing oil from algae in Wooster, Ohio.
Brian Joseph, owner of Touchstone Research Laboratory in Triadelphia, stands with a piece of his patented CFOAM, a coal-based structural carbon foam, in front of the autoclave in which the product is made.
Photo by Casey Junkins
"Now, we just have to find a way to do it on a large scale," said Joseph, who recently assumed full ownership of the laboratory he founded with Elizabeth Kraftician in a church basement in 1980.
"When you go back far enough, all oil came from organisms that consumed carbon dioxide. This is what we are now doing with the algae."
Aside from the algae experiments, Joseph has operated the business out of the Millennium Centre in Triadelphia since early 1990.
The structures are located on the south side of Interstate 70 at the bottom of Two-Mile Hill between Elm Grove and The Highlands.
Joseph admits most people who drive past Touchstone likely have no idea what his company does. However, he said world-renowned companies, including U.S. military defense contractor Boeing, send representatives to Triadelphia to deal with him on a regular basis.
"We do a lot of inventing here," he said.
Touchstone has invented new aluminum alloys, new steel products, and helped to qualify new materials for windmills and jet engines. The company has also invented new ways to produce carbon fiber aircraft parts. Joseph said the company has solved thousands of manufacturing problems for almost any industry.
One of Touchstone's most famous products is CFOAM. The coal-based material is a lightweight, fire-resistant and impact-absorbing structural carbon foam. It can be fabricated in a variety of shapes, sizes and densities. CFOAM replaces conventional materials that are heavier and higher in cost while providing greater structural capability.
Another Touchstone item is CSTONE, which stands for carbon stone. This is also a coal-based product that has been tested in various defense applications, including landing pads, missile tubes and rocket nozzles.
"Coal gets bashed by a lot of people, but it has a lot of useful applications, many of which have nothing to do with burning it," Joseph said.
As for the oil and algae experiments, Joseph said these are taking place at Touchtone's recently dedicated Wooster, Ohio, facility.
"We need to find algae that make more oil," he said. "We are about two or three breakthroughs away from making this commercially viable."
Joseph said like coal, oil also has many uses beyond energy production, including the formation of plastics. In terms of taking over the entire company by buying out Kraftician, Joseph said he is only looking toward the future.
"I wish to thank ... the Regional Economic Development Partnership, which has not only helped put this deal together but has repeatedly found ways to help Touchstone grow for more than 20 years. I'd like to thank WesBanco, that stable pillar of our community, who has been taking care of Touchstone's financial needs for 25 years. Touchstone would not be where it is today without their guidance and support," Joseph said regarding his full acquisition of the company.
"I'd also like to thank Main Street Bank, a local community bank that also showed their faith in us."
Joseph is a graduate of West Liberty University. He also attended Ohio State University, where he studied biophysics before returning home to start Touchstone.
Recently, Joseph served three terms as chairman of the Board of Governors at West Liberty University. He regularly lectures on research and development management, while he recently gave the keynote address at the Federal Laboratory Consortium.
"I am doing today what I feel I was born to do," Joseph added. "We now have a direct focus, and it is full speed ahead."