Professor Marie-Pierre Laborie of the University of Freiburg and professors Antonio Pizzi and Alain Celzard from the French Université de Lorraine bagged almost $20,000 in prize money and the distinction of being a "German High Tech Champion" for developing "Biofoambark", a hard foam derived from bark extract that can be used as insulating material for homes.
They produce the hard foams out of tannin, a compound found in tree bark that is typically left over as a waste product in the lumber industry. Since the foams have good insulating and flame resistant properties, they will be used predominantly as insulating material for buildings and molded automobile parts. In addition, they could one day be used as catalysts or filters for heavy metals and as a replacement for packaging materials like styrofoam.
They may even be useful after the products themselves are worn out, since they want to convert the foams into biofuel. "We want to relieve the burden on the environment by increasing the usefulness of wood and offering a marketable alternative to petroleum-based foams," says Laborie. The "Biofoambark" project is being supported by the Agency for Renewable Resources with funds from the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection. Besides the University of Freiburg, the institutions collaborating on the project include the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg and scientific and industrial partners in Italy, Spain, Finland, Slovenia, and France.
The aim of the Fraunhofer Association campaign "German High Tech Champions" is to help inventors at German universities and independent research institutes to increase their success in contract research on the international stage. It is part of an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for enhancing the international standing of Germany as a center for innovation and research.
The prize will be awarded at POLLUTEC 2012, an international trade fair for environmental equipment, technology, and services to be held from November 27-30 2012 in Lyon.
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