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Cellulose Aerogels from Recycled Waste

Technology Overview: Aerogels have gained popularity in recent years with the total global aerogel market expected to grow at a very high rate of 19.3 % from 2012 to 2017 and projected to reach global revenues of $332.2 million by 2017. The thermal and acoustic insulation sector accounted for 82.3% of all revenues in 2012 and shows the most potential growth.This technology is a process of making cellulose materials from waste paper and cardboard which is one of the largest municipal waste sources generated throughout the world to synthesize biodegradable and environmentally friendly aerogels. The technology uses modified alkaline/urea and freeze drying / supercritical drying process to achieve a cost effective synthesis process. The cellulose aerogel could be modified with different proprietary recipes to alter the absorption properties of the aerogel and optimized for high absorbance applications for (i) polar liquids e.g. water or (ii) non-polar liquids e.g. oil. In addition cellulose aerogels have intrinsically very low thermal conductivity properties so the aerogels could also be optimized for use of thermal or acoustic insulation by coating its porous structure with a hydrophobic material. The improved hydrophobicity makes the aerogel water repellent and suitable for usage in tropical climate. The developed process know-how (including recipes and methods) is suitable for scaling up for mass production.Like many developed countries Singapore also generates a significant amount of waste. In 2012 Singapore generated 17 tons of paper and cardboard waste which makes it the top 3 waste type that is being generated. While the recycling of paper and cardboard waste has met the target of 55% set by NEA there is much opportunity to develop waste into higher value-add products like thermal insulation absorbent media etc. This technology specifically addresses the opportunity by allowing recycled cellulosic material from waste paper and cardboard to be converted into aerogel material instead of using pristine cellulose derived from trees which makes the process more environmentally-friendly and energy efficient. With the capability to be further processed for use for thermal and acoustic insulation as well as absorbent media applications it opens the possibility to the manufacturing of a whole spectrum of high value-add products. Applications: 1) Media to absorb polar liquids e.g. water or non-polar liquids e.g. oil 2) Thermal insulation material 3) Biodegradable packaging material Development Status: The method has been used to synthesize surface-modified samples of up to 24x24x1cm size with improved hydrophobicity and oleophilicity where testing of the suitability of using the modified cellulose aerogel in possible oil absorption applications has been successfully demonstrated under laboratory conditions. Preliminary testing has also been done to assess the suitability of the aerogel for use as thermal insulation material in high humidity conditions. Patent: Patent Pending Opportunity: Licensing; Partnership in commercial development

Benefits:

1) High absorbance capacity of 20x its own dry weight 2) High re-usability where 99.5% of absorbed liquid is removed 3) Low thermal conductivity of 0.029W/mK 4) Thermal stability up to 300 deg C 5) Light weight (density of 0.04g/cm3)

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