By David Laviska, Portfolio Manager for Green Chemistry and Sustainability in Education, ACS Green Chemistry Institute
The Heh-Won Chang Ph.D. Fellowship in Green Chemistry was established in 2019 by his wife, Cecilia P. Chang to honor his work in the field of composite materials. Heh-Won Chang (1939 – 1994) earned his B.S. at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea (1961) and his M.S. (1969) and Ph.D. (1971) in physical chemistry from Kansas State University. After serving as an instructor and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester and the University of Toronto, he joined Bendix Research Laboratories in Southfield, Michigan before moving to their Advanced Technology Center in Columbia, Maryland in 1980. For the last ten years of his career, Chang was a manager for Allied-Signal’s Spectra composite business. He and his team developed more than 50 applications for customers across 15 countries. Chang is credited with numerous papers in publications including the Journal of the American Chemical Society and the Journal of Chemical Physics, and he presented his research at many industry conferences.
After careful deliberation by academic and industry experts who generously volunteered their time to serve as judges, we are delighted to announce the 2023 winners of this prestigious fellowship.
The Chang Fellowship provides national recognition for two outstanding graduate student scholars who have shown superior quality in their research in the fields of green chemistry and/or engineering.
Elanna Neppel is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. She earned her B.S. in chemical engineering at the University of Iowa in 2021. The title of her fellowship application is “Zero to Hero: Zero-Valued Plastic Waste Upcycled into Kevlar®”.
The ubiquitous use of the plastic packaging material polyethylene terephthalate (PET) represents a longstanding challenge to environmental and economic sustainability. The discovery of widespread microplastics throughout the environment, in the food chain, and in the bloodstreams of humans represents a significant threat to human health. PET is widely discarded because of its low economic value and obstacles to increasing the recycling rates of PET and other plastics, despite its widespread use. To mitigate these effects, Neppel is working on developing recycling routes that add economic value, i.e., processes for upcycling waste plastics. Using inexpensive reagents and well-known chemical reactions, p-phenyleneterephthalamide (PPTA), a high-performance polyaramid widely known by the tradename Kevlar®, has been synthesized from waste PET. Neppel’s future work includes focusing on increasing yields and purities of intermediates, synthesizing higher molecular weight polymers, spinning them into high-tenacity fibers, and performing relevant life cycle and technoeconomic analyses (LCA/TEA). The highly original and novel processes she is developing may enable the green transformation of zero-valued waste plastic into anti-ballistic materials for use by police officers, first responders, and the U.S. military.
Neppel will present her latest research findings at the 28th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Atlanta, GA, June 3-5, 2024.
Ming-en Fei is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. He earned his B.S. in material science and engineering (2016) and his M.S. in forestry engineering (2018) at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in the People’s Republic of China. The title of his award application is “Modifications of epoxy vitrimer systems and their applications”.
Fei’s thesis research addresses the issues associated with traditional epoxy resins – a commonly used thermoset polymer used in high-performance adhesives, coatings, composite matrices, and other applications. Most current epoxy resin technologies are based on petrochemical feedstocks and yield plastics that are non-renewable, non-reparable, non-recyclable, and brittle. In addition, high-performance epoxy materials usually require extended curing at high temperatures. Fei is taking a holistic approach to address these problems through relatively simple modifications of the traditional epoxy resin systems. His advances include the use of renewable feedstocks to replace petrochemicals, a novel approach to the cross-linking mechanism, and lower-temperature curing processes.
Fei presented his latest research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.
To learn more about these and other green chemistry student awards that the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® offers, please visit https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/funding/green-chemistry.html.
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