A team of researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering led by Associate Professor Hai Minh Duong and Professor Nhan Phan-Thien in collaboration with Dr. Xiwen Zhang from the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology created a very useful technology that can also solve some global environmental issues.

The scientists got an idea of using plastic bottles that are usually made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as a component for the development of PET aerogels. With this technique, they ended up creating an extremely soft, flexible, life-long, light and easy to made material. Also, this aerogel turned out to have such properties as high thermal insulation and great absorption capacity.

Considering how powerful their innovation is, the researchers have already come up with lots of concepts for application of the PET aerogel. For example, they proposed an idea of making firefighter coats that would be light and highly fire-resistant since the material demonstrated its ability to withstand the temperatures up to 620 degree Celsius.

Where is the money?

Numerous chemical qualities of aerogels made them a very promising material for mass production and further various applications. Now, it’s mostly used in the building and construction sector as a tool for insulation. Also, its abilities allow it to widen the spectrum of application that includes pollution filters, gas and nuclear particle detectors, water deionizers, different aerospace implementations, and many more usages. All in all, the aerogel market is steadily growing and expected to reach $3.29 billion by 2025 with an annual growth rate of 22.6%. In comparison, globally this sector reached $538 million worth globally in 2016. At the moment, US perform the highest demand for aerogel technologies along with rapidly developing Asia-Pacific region which is also the homeland of the mentioned innovation that has great perspectives in future and can get more attention to this sphere. The main reason for this is that the new technology could be super cheap when it comes to manufacturing since it would just recycle tons of plastic waste.

The techers: Xiwen Zhang 

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