Greener Solutions

Greener Solutions 2015: Safer resins for 3D printing with Autodesk

For this challenge, students worked with Autodesk to develop safer and more sustainable resins for 3D printing. The student team assessed the current formulas being used in the industry after being trained briefly in chemistry, toxicology and public health research. Proposed solutions include: replacing the photoinitiator (using curcumin and riboflavin), modifying acrylate-based resins (with triglycerides or chitosan), and using non-acyrlate resins via pH photoinitiation (with calcite or metal ligand complexes). ...

Greener Solutions 2012: E-waste Challenge with HP

During the fall of 2012 we partnered with Hewlett Packard and the Department of Toxic Substance Control on a project related to the informal e-waste recycling sector. An interdisciplinary team of students from Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Science and Public Health worked with scientist at HP to characterize the processes and emissions from common e-waste recycling practices. This information informs changes to the design of consumer electronics that minimize the use of harmful substances, as well as identifying emerging contaminated from newer generations of...

Greener Solutions 2019: Alternatives to DMF with Nike

Dimethylformamide (DMF) is used extensively as a solvent and “texturizer” in the manufacture of polyurethane-based synthetic leather used in sport shoes and partner Nike wished to explore ways to reduce or eliminate the chemical from its production line.

DMF is a known liver toxicant and is associated with several other severe health outcomes. DMF can be easily absorbed by the dermal and respiratory systems, whereafter the liver is the primary target organ. Overall, DMF is a high or moderate hazard for the endpoints of carcinogenicity and...

Greener Solutions 2019: Stereolithography (SLA) resins

Acrylates are used as very effective cross-linkers in the polymerization of liquid resins used in stereolithography (SLA) printing. When UV light is shown on reactive monomers or oligomers in the liquid resins, they bond together to form a solid object and a typical SLA printer will build up a solid object, layer by layer, using this chemical reaction.

Acrylates and methacrylates present some human and environmental health problems, however. In use in the baseline study resin these chemicals were shown to be skin and eye irritants, skin...

Greener Solutions 2016: Modular polymers with Steelcase

The Steelcase team focused on one area of the current plastic manufacturing process that would require changes to execute polymer modularity — additives. The team chose the colorants used for the polypropylene Node chair line as the baseline for substitution and as a test for the concept of modularity. These colorants can be hazardous. For example, carbon black, a common colorant, is a well-known occupational hazard and probable carcinogen. The team was faced with two distinct but entwined parts of the challenge: finding more benign materials, like...

Greener Solutions 2017: Mushroom-based leather performance with MycoWorks

The MycoWorks team were challenged with improving performance in a product that was already more sustainable than traditional leather making and included no toxic materials in either the finished product or manufacturing process. Their main concern was in producing a supple mushroom-based “leather” that held up to mechanical stresses and environmental moisture.

They proposed three methods to increase the strength and flexibility of the product by cross-linking chitosan in the material, using genipin among other materials, and applying a moisture barrier...

Greener Solutions 2018: Safer Sunscreens

The Safer Sunscreens group identified naturally-sourced compounds such as colorless carotenoids, mycosporine-like amino acids, and vitamin E compounds, for use as potential alternatives to existing sunscreen compounds. These substances may serve as viable alternatives to the benzophenone compounds recently banned in the State of Hawaii. The team based its research on plant and microbial approaches to UV protection. The group also considered the properties of compounds that have been accepted for use in Europe, but not in the United States, with an aim to identify the...

Greener Solutions 2020: PFAS in Aftermarket Carpet Treatments

The aftermarket carpet treatment team presented PFAS alternatives for aftermarket stain repellant treatments. Their proposed solutions included natural waxes and oils, biopolymers, and silicon-based materials, including silicon dioxide nanoparticles and silicon-containing small molecules and polymers. The team identified chitosan and cellulose nanocrystal as candidates for a biopolymer approach. The team noted the potential to combine multiple strategies to achieve optimal performance metrics....