Indian-American student develops eco-friendly foam, wins prestigious award

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-

An Indian-American student from Texas has won a prestigious award for developing an eco-friendly foam alternative, which was motivated by the impact of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.

Sohi Sanjay Patel, a sophomore at a Texas high school, was declared the winner of the Patrick H Hurd Sustainability Award at the 2021 virtual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). The award is given by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Her project proposes to provide a plant-derived, flame-retardant polyurethane foam that could be used for housing insulation and other applications, the EPA said.

Patel’s work was motivated by the impact of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in India when over 40 tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from a pesticide plant.

MIC gas is the main raw material for manufacturing polyurethane foam. Polyurethane foam is used for insulation and as a cushioning material in a wide variety of products.

Patel’s work, titled “Scalable and Sustainable Synthesis of a Novel, Bio-Based Polyurethane Foam System Incorporating Industrial Byproducts and Waste,” focuses on replacing MIC with greener components for making polyurethane.

In particular, she developed two novel biochemicals, using nontoxic waste products, to create a polyurethane foam more sustainably.

“The student finalists in this year’s ISEF are applying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts in remarkable ways to help protect human health and the environment, and their projects are truly inspiring,” said EPA Science Advisor Dr Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta.

“Congratulations to Sohi Sanjay Patel on winning the Patrick H Hurd Sustainability Award and to Charlotte Michaluk who was selected to receive honorable mention by the US Environmental Protection Agency at the 2021 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair,” said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of the Society for Science and Publisher of Science News.

EPA’s Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award provides funds for the winner to travel to EPA’s National Sustainability Design Expo. The Expo features the university and college student teams participating in EPA’s P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet program, which encourages innovative designs applying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics concepts to address environmental challenges.