NYU Tandon Professor Wins H&M Global Change Award for Research into Sustainable Clothing Manufacturing
Currently, many types of fabrics, including nylon, are made in an energy-intensive, unsustainable process that uses fossil fuel. Now, NYU (New York University) Tandon School of Engineering Assistant Professor Miguel Modestino, of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is proposing a method that eliminates oil from the equation, employing water, plant waste, and solar energy to deliver a material identical to the nylon now widely used in the fashion industry and in other commercial applications.
Modestino and his co-researcher, Sophia Haussener of the École Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne (EPFL) Switzerland, have garnered a 2017 Global Change Award of EUR 250000 (USD 267000) from the H&M Foundation, the non-profit arm of the retailing giant. The first such initiative by a major member of the fashion world, the Global Change challenge attracted almost 3000 applicants this year and aims to support early innovations that can accelerate the shift to a circular and sustainable garment industry, in order to protect the planet. The awards were presented in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 5, 2017.
The researchers chose to focus on nylon because of the large market for the popular polymer, which they estimate to be more than 6 million tons per year, with a value of more than USD 20 billion. Their proposed process uses photovoltaic arrays, which generate electricity directly from the sun, to drive the electrochemical reduction of acrylonitrile (ACN) to adiponitrile (ADN) and hydrogen (H2), which will, in turn, be synthesized into hexanediamine (HDA), one of the existing precursors to nylon.
Because ACN can be derived from plant waste, only sun, water, and carbon dioxide will be required as inputs, and the new process will represent a new scheme for carbon capture, where greenhouse gases will be bound into the fabric, rather than releasing them into the air.
“It is gratifying to contribute toward a zero-emissions world,” Modestino said. “Once this process is tested and scaled up, there is the potential to expand the concept to other segments of the chemical industry, including the synthesis of substances like aluminium and chlorine.”
“Miguel Modestino takes an approach that we hope to see in every bit of research done at NYU Tandon: to create technology that can be used for the benefit of humankind,” said Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan. “We are proud that the H&M Foundation recognizes the value of his hard work and vision.”
Modestino and his team research lies at the interface of multifunctional material development and electrochemical engineering. Electrochemical devices are ubiquitous to a broad range of energy conversion technologies and chemical processes. Their core components rely on complex materials that provide the required electrocatalytic activity and mass transport functionality. The group has expertise in composite materials development, processing and characterization; and this expertise is used to improve and redefine electrochemical reactors with direct industrial applications. Our applied research approach also relies on fundamental understanding of the materials’ self-assembly and how their morphology and surface properties affects the mass transport and performance of electrochemical devices.
The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly). A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, the country’s largest private research university, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates Future Labs focused on start-up businesses in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program.
Glatfelter and Dreamwearvers awarded at INDEX 17
Glatfelter announced on April 7, 2017 that its Composite Fibers business unit, in partnership with Dreamweaver International, Inc., won an award for the Dreamweaver Gold 20™ product as the “best finished product made from, or incorporating nonwovens”.
Dreamweaver and Glatfelter have developed Dreamweaver Gold 20™, a lithium ion battery separator made from a combination of nanofibers and microfibers whose thermally stable materials are designed to prevent self-ignition. “The team is very proud and excited for the future of this product as we work through the qualification process,” says Martin Rapp, Senior Vice President and Business Unit President, Composite Fibers.
The new cost-effective design delivers the normal electrical performance that is typically achieved with electrode materials in the battery, and provides enhanced product safety given its thermal stability.
A total of eight award categories were available. Award nominees along with other industry professionals gathered to learn of the award winners as presented at last week’s INDEX 17 nonwovens exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland.
Glatfelter and Dreamweaver are proud of their partnership and look forward to continuing on the path of enhancing everyday life.
Glatfelter is a global supplier of specialty papers and fibre-based engineered materials, offering innovation, world-class service and over a century and a half of technical expertise. Headquartered in York, PA, the company employs over 4300 people and serves customers in over 100 countries. U.S. operations include facilities in Pennsylvania and Ohio. International operations include facilities in Canada, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the Philippines, and sales and distribution offices in China and Russia. Glatfelter’s sales approximate USD 1.6 billion annually.
Dreamweaver International Inc. is an advanced technology company whose products use a combination of nanofibers and microfibers to deliver best-in-class performance in lithium ion batteries and supercapacitors. Dreamweaver was founded in 2011 by Jim Schaeffer and Brian Morin, and is headquartered in Greenville, SC.