Clean Technology

Most Recent Inventions

Stimuli-Responsive Smart Block Copolymers Improve Dispersion of Titanium Dioxide in Architectural Coatings

An associate professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has synthesized a series of stimuli-responsive block copolymer dispersants optimized for use in architectural coating applications. These novel polymer dispersants are currently being developed as additives to existing coatings for improved dispersion of TiO2. Dispersant properties are tunable through modification of the polymer composition as a function of pH and temperature. Initial data shows that the addition of these polymers can decrease settling rate, control viscosity, and control interfacial activity, all of which are important for greater dispersant effectiveness and stability over time. These polymers have demonstrated the ability to interface with pigment particles, such as TiO2, resulting in improved dispersion of the pigment. Initial testing shows reduced TiO2 concentration while maintaining zero shear viscosity and shear thinning properties, which prevents drips in the coatings, and is comparable to commercially available formations. These properties are tunable and may be altered to tailor the product for a desired use or environment, or to readjust the properties of an aged existing product. New methods of synthesis to allow for the scaled-up production of these polymer additives are complete and new purification methods are in progress. Further development will also focus on maintaining additional properties like coverage and opacity, and testing of additional polymer compositions and particle surface coatings.

Novel Catalysts for Improved Remediation of Sulfur-Containing Pollutants

A professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has developed a versatile suite of iron-based catalysts with the potential to promote rapid, efficient oxidation of deleterious sulfur-containing compounds present in crude oil, natural gas, and/or aqueous waste streams. With these novel catalysts, there is no need for corrosive base, elevated temperatures, expensive or dangerous oxidants, or high pressures.

Enzymatic Depolymerization of Lignin

UW–Madison researchers provide the first demonstration of an in vitro enzymatic system that can recycle NAD+ and GSH while releasing aromatic monomers from natural and engineered lignin oligomers, as well as model compounds composed of similar chemical building blocks. Nearly 10 percent of beta-ether units were cleaved when the system was tested on actual lignin samples.

The relevant enzymes include dehydrogenases, β-etherases and glutathione lyases. In an exemplary version, the system uses the known LigD, LigN, LigE and LigF enzymes from Sphingobium sp. strain SYK-6. A newly discovered heterodimeric β-aryl etherase (BaeA) can be used in addition to or instead of LigE.

Integrated Vertical Axis Wind Turbine System Generates More Power from Less Wind with Smaller Turbines

An assistant professor of engineering technology at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has developed an innovation that improves the power generation efficiency of vertical axis wind turbine systems and reduces installation and maintenance costs. Conventional wind generation systems are currently limited by a configuration requiring one turbine to one power generator and drive train. The novel technology presented here removes this limitation by combining multiple vertical axis turbines with a single generator and drive train. This approach allows a reduction in size, weight and inertia of each turbine and a reduction in electrical and mechanical infrastructure. The result is a system that operates in less wind and generates more power per multi-turbine tower. In addition to increased capacity for electricity generation, other benefits related to this integrated turbine technology include ground level installation and maintenance of fewer generators and electrical components, options to reduce noise, and lower transportation barriers and costs.

Recombinant High-Lipid Microbe for Bioproduct & Biofuel Production

By combining genetic and bioreactor engineering, the researchers have developed R. sphaeroides strains capable of producing and secreting lipids at levels found in oleaginous microbes. In the process they isolated and characterized 10 different high-lipid strains.

Following a single genetic alteration, the best performing strain produced 1.3 g/L fatty acids, corresponding to 33 percent of DCW. The researchers are not aware of any previous examples of a microbe accumulating more than 20 percent of its biomass as phospholipid (triacylglycerol or wax esters are typical).

The novel properties of these high-lipid mutants suggest that similar changes in cell envelope structure could be used to increase production of lipids and associated bioproducts from other microbes.

Most Recent Patents

High Yield Method to Produce HMF from Fructose

UW–Madison researchers have discovered that a solvent system comprising water and a polar aprotic solvent (e.g., acetone) is ideally suited for converting C6 carbohydrates into HMF at reasonably low temperatures (such as 120°C), low acid concentration and at very high yields and efficiencies.

The C6 carbohydrate used in the method can be derived from any source including biomass (processed or unprocessed), cellulose and lignocellulosic sources, etc. The nature of the C6 carbohydrate is not critical to the method, although fructose is preferred.

Recyclable Catalyst for Lower Cost Production of Fermentable Sugars and High Value Chemicals from Biomass

An assistant professor in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and former senior research scientist at the Montana State University Bio-Energy Center have developed a technology that reduces the processing cost and time to fractionate lignocellulose into fermentable sugars. The technology is centered on the use of a catalyst linked to a magnetic bead, which replaces the need for acids and enzymes in the pretreatment step of the production process. Because of its magnetic properties, the catalyst can easily be recovered from the reaction mixture and reused multiple times. It is also capable of functioning under cellulose loads as high as 50%, whereas loads for competing solid acid catalysts have been typically limited to less than 15%. The end result is a process that makes better use of carbon-neutral biomass by lowering production costs and increasing yield of desirable monomer sugars and high value chemical compounds such as vanillin, phenol, acetophenone.

Field Portable Smartphone Device for Water Quality Monitoring

A University of Wisconsin-Green Bay professor of chemistry has developed a portable, accurate, low cost, smartphone-based analytical device for the field-measurement and geographical mapping of environmentally relevant water quality parameters. In its current embodiment, the device is a colorimeter for measuring absorbance that includes a visible light source with onboard power, imaging filters, a sample cuvette, and a mounting mechanism for attachment to a smartphone or tablet. An accompanying app is used to record camera images of samples and convert them to numerical absorbance data for analysis. The app will be further developed to allow integration with an online ArcGIS platform for uploading and mapping the data.