Indian-American student wins prestigious award for developing eco-friendly foam alternative

Sohi Sanjay Patel, a sophomore at a Texas high school, was declared the winner of the Patrick H Hurd Sustainability Award at the 2021 virtual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
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An Indian-American student has won a prestigious award for developing an eco-friendly foam alternative, which was motivated by the impact of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.

Sohi Sanjay Patel, a sophomore at a Texas high school, was declared the winner of the Patrick H Hurd Sustainability Award at the 2021 virtual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

The award is given by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Her project proposes to provide a plant-derived, flame-retardant polyurethane foam that could be used for housing insulation and other applications, the EPA said.

Patel's work was motivated by the impact of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in India when over 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas had leaked from a pesticide plant, it said in a statement.

MIC gas is a main raw material for the manufacturing of polyurethane foam, which is used for insulation and as a cushioning material in a wide variety of products.

Her work titled Scalable and Sustainable Synthesis of a Novel, Bio-Based Polyurethane Foam System Incorporating Industrial Byproducts and Waste focuses on replacing MIC with greener components for the making of polyurethane.

In particular, she has developed two novel biochemicals using nontoxic waste products to create a polyurethane foam more sustainably.

The student finalists in this year's ISEF are applying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts in remarkable ways to help protect human health and the environment, and their projects are truly inspiring, said EPA Science Advisor Dr Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta.

In a statement, Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of the Society for Science and Publisher of Science News, said, congratulations to Sohi Sanjay Patel on winning the Patrick H Hurd Sustainability Award and to Charlotte Michaluk who was selected to receive honourable mention by the US Environmental Protection Agency at the 2021 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair.

Edited by Megha Reddy