Greener Solutions 2023: Safer Alternatives to Flame Retardants in Firefighter Stationwear

In partnership with the International Association of Firefighters, this team examined safer alternatives to halogenated flame retardants used in firefighter stationwear.

Final Presentation

Final Report

Greener Solutions 2023: Safer Foaming Agents For Athletic Shoe Midsoles with Nike

In partnership with Nike, this student team was tasked with identifying safer alternatives to Azodicarbonamide (ADCA) used as a blowing agent to create foams in the midsole of athletic shoes.

Final Presentation Slides

Final Report

Greener Solutions 2022: PFAS-free Fire Fighting Turnout Gear

Students were challenged to identify safer alternatives to the PTFE laminate moisture barrier currently approved by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1971 Standards, which certify firefighter turnout gear. The student team was partnered with the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), a labor union made up of firefighters and scientists, representing firefighters and paramedics in the United States and Canada.

Final Report and...

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 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 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....

Greener Solutions 2016: Mosquito repellent clothing with Patagonia

The challenge for the Patagonia team was to develop a non-toxic, environmentally benign method for a fabric, clothing or a clothing treatment to prevent the biting of the wearer by mosquitoes. The baseline condition that the team investigated was the common industry treatment of polyester with permethrin. Permethrin, although ultimately plant-based, is an insecticide used as a repellant and is toxic to insects and aquatic life when released in the environment. It was expected that all innovative solutions to the challenge would be explored,...

Greener Solutions 2013: Cotton Cross-Linking and Fabric Finishing for Levi's

In 2013 we partnered with Levi Strauss &Co. and Biomimicry 3.8 to identify and evaluate potential biomimetic approaches to fabric finishing that would eliminate the use of formaldehyde and diisocyanates. Students worked alongside industrial partners to identify the most promising replacement materials and have identified a number of inherently less hazardous approaches to fabric finishes which will need to be tested in the lab. At the end of the semester a few of the students were interested in testing one or two of the new ideas in lab. These initial lab investigations...

Greener Solutions 2017: Durable water repellency with WLGore

This interdiscipilinary team investigated alternatives to perfluorinated compounds for DWR (durable water repellency) in outdoor clothing. The Gore team was challenged to create a high-performance fabric treatment that could resist both water and oils. They recommended silica nanosols and blow spinning as the two most promising solutions; these reported the best hydrophobicity, potential for oleophobicity, and application to textiles.

A silica nanosol coating provides hierarchical structuring through silica nanoparticles that bond with the...