Mechanical engineering researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS), led by Associate Professor Hai Minh Duong and Professor Nhan Phan-Tien, in collaboration with Dr Xiwen Zhang from the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), have pioneered the technology to fabricate the world’s first polyethylene terephthalate (PET) aerogels from recovered plastic.
In a news release issued by NUS, the team says it took two years to develop a “simple, cost-effective and green method” that can convert PET bottles into an A4-sized PET aerogel sheet that can be used in a variety of applications. The PET aerogels are soft, flexible, durable, extremely light and easy to handle, according to the researchers. They also demonstrate superior thermal insulation and strong absorption capacity. “These properties make them attractive for a wide range of applications, such as for heat and sound insulation in buildings, oil spill cleaning and also as a lightweight lining for firefighter coats and carbon dioxide absorption masks that could be used during fire rescue operations and fire escape,” the researchers add.
The researchers have filed a patent for their PET aerogel technology and say they will continue to enhance the aerogel’s performance and explore new applications. They also express an interest to work with companies to bring the technology to market.