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Student team nets $15,000 EPA research grant

LU students have received a $15,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s P3 Program (People, Prosperity, and the Planet) with their proposal to design and synthesize sustainable, environmentally friendly coating systems with self-healing and feedback properties using linseed oil monomers.

The LU grant is one of 38 People, Prosperity and Plant (P3) grants to university student teams the EPA announced for proposed projects to develop new, sustainable products and strategies. Since 2004 the competition has funded more than 600 student team projects nationwide – some leading to start-up companies.

Chemistry majors Chuanxing Zhan and Lauren Ware, and Yang Lu, a chemical engineering major, started developing this solution to metal corrosion problems in 2014 under the supervision of assistant professor Evan Wujcik, in the Dan F. Smith Department of Chemical Engineering, and Suying Wei, associate professor of analytical chemistry. By August 2015, the team’s proposal was approved and they were notified of their award of the grant. The team began its work on the project in December.

The P3 Program is a two-phased college-level sustainable solutions competition where teams are first awarded a $15,000 grant to develop their idea, then compete their design in the National Sustainable Design Expo for the P3 Award and a grant of $75,000 to further the project design into real-world application.

The team designed a coating system using linseed oil monomers as the polymerizable healing core materials as well as the coating matrixes and microcontainers. The microcapsules containing the monomers are dispersed in the coating matrix to create the coating system. In the event of a crack, microcapsules embedded in the coating matrix rupture, releasing the healing agent of linseed monomers which are triggered by contact with atmospheric oxygen to result in a polymer film that fill the cracks.

The smart coating system is envisioned to provide industries with non-toxic, biodegradable, eco-friendly, and cost-effective smart coatings for a sustainable development. This project will minimize hazardous chemicals released to the environment, and the bio-degradability of the polymeric coating systems will reduce pollution caused by other non-degradable polymer wastes.

Each spring, EPA’s P3 Award Competition at the National Sustainable Design Expo brings together students, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and businesses that are working to create a sustainable future. The Expo is open to the public.