A team of students from the Center for Sustainable Polymers, Minnesota University, is the grand prize winner in the $10,000 Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA). The award, made possible by a collaboration between the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and the Dow Chemical Company, recognizes and rewards students and universities for innovation and research that encourages and promotes sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing social, economic and environmental problems.
Their project was titled, Sustainable and Recyclable Polyurethane Foams.
“Using renewable feedstocks, we have developed mechanically tunable, chemically recyclable polyurethane foams and elastomers. These materials are more sustainable than conventional non-degradable petroleum-derived polyurethanes."
Polyurethanes are highly versatile materials. In addition to furniture and clothing, manufactures use them in electronics, cars, floors and medical devices. But the materials come from petroleum, and efforts to recycle them are limited. To tackle the huge amount of waste this creates, scientists are pursuing more sustainable options. Marc A. Hillmyer and colleagues developed an efficient method to make a sugar-derived rubbery polyester compound called poly(β-methyl-δ-valerolactone), or PMVL, that can be used in new chemically-recyclable polyurethanes. More information at EurekAlert!