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Photosynthetic Foam

Photosynthetic Foam

David Wendell, PhD
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Publish Date: 09/21/10
Media Contact: Katy Cosse, 513-556-2635
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UC Research Wins 2010 Earth Award For Biofuel-Producing Foam

CINCINNATI—An artificial photosynthetic foam developed at the University of Cincinnati has won the 2010 Earth Award.

David Wendell, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and civil and environmental engineering, received the award for the foam, designed with Carlo Montemagno, PhD, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, at the Earth Awards Gala Thursday, Sept. 16, part of the Start Festival this September in London.

The artificial foam, based on the nests made by a species of semi-tropical frogs, converts solar energy to sugars, which can then be converted to biofuels like ethanol.

"The advantage for our system, compared to plants and algae, is that all of the captured solar energy is converted to sugars, whereas these organisms must divert a great deal of energy to other functions to maintain life and reproduce,” says Wendell. This makes the foam an extremely efficient form of carbon capture and energy production.

Because the foam removes carbon dioxide from the air and uses no soil, it is suited for use in highly enriched carbon dioxide environments, like the exhaust from coal-burning power plants. There, it would be able to capture carbon dioxide before it is released to the atmosphere.

As winner of the 2010 Earth Award, Wendell will receive $50,000 to bring the foam to market.

This summer, Wendell received the 2010 Future Technology category award, which allowed him to present his work at the Earth Award’s Sept. 16 Innovators Summit in London. Each category winner received $10,000. Categories include built environment, fashion, product, social justice and systems. 

The Earth Awards were created in 2007 to identify viable green ideas from science, architecture, fashion, product design and social justice and link them to investors.

Judges are chosen from leaders in business and design as well as leading environmentalists and entrepreneurs. They include Jane Goodall, Richard Branson, Graydon Carter, Diane von Furstenberg and Bill McKibben.

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