Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

Clean Technology
Clean Technology
Superabsorbent, Sustainable Aerogels
WARF: P140038US02

Inventors: Shaoqin Gong, Zhiyong Cai, Qifeng Zheng

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing organic aerogels that can absorb extreme amounts of oil, organic solvents and heavy metals.
Aerogels are the world’s lightest solid materials made by removing liquid from gels. Such materials may contain up to 99 percent air and have special properties like high porosity and absorption.

One promising application for aerogels is environmental cleanup. They could be used to purify water contaminated with crude oil, fuel, organic solvents and metals like lead and mercury.
The Invention
UW–Madison researchers have developed organic aerogels with excellent absorbent properties. They are made by combining a water soluble polymer and cellulose nanocrystals/nanofibers (CNFs) derived from biomass. The polymer, such as PVA (polyvinyl alcohol), is cross-linked to form a gel and then water is removed by freeze-drying. The surface of the aerogel is coated with an organosilane, making it highly water repellent and superoleophilic (‘oil loving’).
  • Water purification
  • Oil spills and industrial cleanup
  • Heavy metal ion scavenging
Key Benefits
  • Highly porous, lightweight and sustainable
  • Absorbs huge amount of oil and organic solvent (up to 100 times its own weight)
  • High compressive strength and ultralow density
  • CNFs are derived from biomass.
  • PVA is a cheap synthetic polymer with excellent biocompatibility.
  • Freeze-drying is a green, inexpensive and scalable process.
Stage of Development
The development of this technology was supported by WARF Accelerator. WARF Accelerator selects WARF's most commercially promising technologies and provides expert assistance and funding to enable achievement of commercially significant milestones. WARF believes that these technologies are especially attractive opportunities for licensing.
Additional Information
For More Information About the Inventors
For current licensing status, please contact Jennifer Gottwald at [javascript protected email address] or 608-960-9854