A University of Cincinnati professor won a 2010 Earth Award, a global award for innovative, consumer driven ideas, for an artificial photosynthetic foam that can be converted into biofuel.
David Wendell, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and civil and environmental engineering designed the foam with Carlo Montemagno, PhD, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
Wendell won the award, which comes with $50,000 to bring it to market.
The foam pulls energy from the sun and carbon from the air and converts it into sugars. Those sugars can be turned into biofuels like ethanol which power some cleaner burning vehicles. The foam’s design is based on the foam nests of the semi-tropical Tungara frog, whose long-lived foams nurture growing tadpoles.
“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. This makes the foam an extremely efficient form of carbon capture and energy production,” Wendell said.
The Earth Awards were announced at a gala in September as part of the Start Festival in London.
Wendell earlier won the 2010 Future Technology category award, which allowed him to present his work at the Earth Award’s September Innovators Summit in London. Each category winner received $10,000. Categories include built environment, fashion, product, social justice and systems.