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High School Student Wins EPA Award for Eco-Friendly Foam Alternative

Date : 2021-June-08

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Sohi Sanjay Patel, a sophomore at The Woodlands College Park High School in The Woodlands, Texas, has won its Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award at the 2021 virtual Regeneron® International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Sohi’s project proposes to provide a plant-derived, flame retardant polyurethane foam that could be used for housing insulation and other applications.

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 a 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.