AEROGELS FROM ENVIRONMENTAL WASTES FOR NOVEL ENGINEERING APPLICATIONS

Associate Prof. Hai Minh Duong and Prof. Nhan Phan-Thien, National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

Recycling environmental waste can avoid many hazardous environmental scenarios and save resources. This new aerogel technology can recycle various environmental wastes to high-value engineering materials. Common paper, fabric, and plastic wastes are used to develop the lightest aerogel materials for novel applications such as oil spill cleaning, heat and sound insulation, winter garment materials, packaging, personal care, and medical products.

Using a cost-effective and green sol-gel technique with no toxic solvents and cross-linkers, recycled fibers from waste are converted into ultralight, porous, biodegradable, non-toxic aerogels. The method uses 70% less energy and results in reduced polluting emissions in the air and water. It is also faster, as the entire process takes only 8 hours to one day — 20 times faster than current commercial processes.

The developed aerogels are highly compressible; hence, storage and transportation costs are greatly reduced. The compressed aerogels can very quickly recover 97 % of their original size when placed in water, and the used aerogels can be recycled, eliminating waste. The hybrid aerogel pellets can be easy integrated into a clinical syringe to be used as a hemorrhage-control device. Each compressed aerogel pallet can expand in volume to 16 times its size in 4.5 seconds — three times faster than commercial hemorrhage devices — while retaining their structural integrity. The fast aerogel expansion also exerts high pressure to stop wound bleeding within five seconds.

The coated aerogel can absorb oil 99 times its dry weight and is four times as effective as commercial oil sorbents. They can be reused several times and can be recovered by squeezing out more than 99% of absorbed oil. At the end of their useful life, the used aerogel can be safely ground into fine particles and discarded.

With fire-retardant coating, the aerogels can withstand an ambient temperature of 600-620 ºC and prevent fire from spreading inside buildings.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Revolutionary, Eco-friendly, and Non-toxic Glueless Bonding Technology to Replace Environmentally Challenging Adhesives

Espen Hvidsten Dahl, Mikkel Kongsfelt, Michael Kristensen, Mie Lillethorup, Stefan Urth Nielsen, and Bjørn Schytz Bruun, RadiSurfApS, Arhus, Denmark

Nanoprimers represent a groundbreaking method for glue-free bonding of challenging material combinations like metals and glass with plastics, utilizing nanotechnology and cutting-edge surface chemistry. Nanoprimers work by growing, from the bottom-up, an ultrathin 10-50 nanometer layer of chemically bonded polymer brushes on the surface of metal, glass, or carbon-based materials. Polymer brush layers can be manufactured through a two-step, economically viable process on an industrial scale within minutes.

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Phononic Vibes

Luca D'Alessandro, Giovanni Capellari, and Stefano Caverni, Phononic Vibes, Milan, Italy

New vibration and noise isolation products (phononic panels) are based on the physics of phononic crystals. These artificial crystals greatly cut down the mechanical and acoustic waves in a range of frequencies. The products, characterized by low thickness and weight, can be built using recycled materials (such as recycled plastic). The technology can be applied to markets such as railway infrastructure, sound isolation in noisy machines or building panels, and vibro-acoustic isolation panels for the aerospace sector.

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Eggxellent Plastic

Sylvia Jung, Rice University, Houston, TX USA

This project utilizes two of the top 10 sources of waste: fruit and eggs. These are used to build plastic-like structures that are biocompatible and biodegradable. The product is an eggwhite-based polymer strengthened by biocompatible additives including microfibril cellulose from waste fruit and egg shell nanoparticles. A possible route for the product after usage is going to farms to be used as fertilizer. The product could be used to make disposable plates, cups, and cutlery.

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Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests (TASAR)

Mark G. Ballin and David J. Wing, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA USA

TASAR features a cockpit automation system that monitors for potential flight trajectory improvements and displays them to the pilot. These wind-optimized changes are pre-cleared of potential conflicts with other known airplane traffic, weather hazards, and airspace restrictions. TASAR can improve the process in which pilots request flight path and altitude modifications due to changing flight conditions. Changes may be made to reduce flight time or increase fuel efficiency.

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