CEMS faculty among those receiving 2020 TechConnect Innovation Awards

Dec. 14, 2020 - Researchers from the University of Minnesota’s College of Science & Engineering were recently named recipients of the 2020 TechConnect Business Innovation Awards for their work on novel technologies.

CEMS Professor Chris Ellison and his research team in the Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP) at the University of Minnesota (UMN) won a TechConnect Innovation Award for developing a new recycling approach to address one of the world’s most pressing problems: recycling mixed plastic waste. Their approach has targeted poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) and polyethylene (PE) mixed waste, which together constitute roughly 50% of the total plastics market. The team developed PET-PE multiblock copolymers (MBCP) that can be used as interfacially-active compatibilizers to produce melt reprocessed PET/PE blends. At only a few percent loading, the MBCP additive improved PET/PE interfacial adhesion by almost three orders of magnitude, and this aided in stress transfer across interfaces to produce tough blends that are useful for numerous applications. These exciting results indicate MBCPs can efficiently function as compatibilizer additives to facilitate the recycling of multicomponent plastic waste by simple melt reprocessing.

A research team led by Distinguished McKnight University Professor Richard James, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics, and CEMS Professor Bharat Jalan earned a TechConnect Innovation Award for developing a new concept for energy conversion from low-grade waste heat to electricity. The technology relies on the use of oxide crystals that undergo highly reversible phase transformations from a strongly ferroelectric phase to a paraelectric phase upon heating. As the crystal is cooled through the phase transformation it releases (latent) heat, transforms to the ferroelectric phase, and develops a strong polarization. If this crystal is the dielectric of a capacitor that is connected in parallel to a reference capacitor, it will draw charge from the reference capacitor. Besides the exciting long term possibility of using these devices to produce energy from the enormous natural reserves stored on earth at small temperature difference, the near term application of this technology is the conversion of waste heat-to-electricity from the industrial sector, internal combustion engines, power plants, data centers, computers, and hand-held electronic devices.

Related Link: https://events.techconnect.org/TCB/participate/innovation/awards.html

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