Navigation Links
Case Western Reserve University engineers hit pay dirt with clay mixture
Date:4/14/2009

A watery, mud-like substance has hit pay dirt for Case Western Reserve University engineering professor David Schiraldi and his research group.

The researchers have created a line of patented foam-like and environmentally friendly polymers, called clay aerogel composites that can take on the shape and size of any container that can hold water from ice cube trays to rubber ducky molds to clam-shell packaging molds that hold and ship electronics. "This is cool stuff," says the associate professor and associate chair of the university's Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering.

When fired in a muffle furnace (a kiln) to 800 degrees centigrade, this material undergoes a chemical transformation. It can become a hard, lightweight ceramic. When mixed with latex, it becomes a bendable material like rubber. If magnetic materials are included in the clay concoction, it becomes a super-lightweight magnet. Combined with the right materials, it can even be an electrical conductor or a catalyst for chemical reactions.

"The flexibility of the clay aerogel composites is amazing," says Schiraldi.

The clay aerogel composites are inexpensive to produce and involve the same kind of freeze-drying process used to make banana chips and coffee.

Schiraldi says almost anyone can make the composites if they have pure clay in a form that resembles cat litter pellets, a blender and a $50,000 freeze dryer.

The researcher bought his equipment with $75,000 he won in the 2005 North Coast Nanotechnology Business Idea Competition that encouraged ideas to create new start-up companies. Schiraldi's used his winnings to establish Aeroclay Inc., and to obtain the AeroClay trademark for the range of possible products.

After Schiraldi came to the university in 2002 and had a graduate student trained and ready by 2004 to take on an "extra unfunded project," Schiraldi's lab began making these new kinds of polymer-based materials.

Graduate student Matt Gawryla has since received a President's Opportunity Grant to expand clay aerogel composite experiments.

"We have put together an army of graduate and undergraduate researchers on a shoestring budget and produced a gold mine of papers and patents," said Schiraldi.

Aeoroclay materials feel and act like foam, without the injection of gas bubbles or the use of environmentally unfriendly CFC blowing agents.

Recently, the group went even greener by combining clay, water and the milk protein, casein, found in waste water left over from making cheese. This milk protein is the same substance farmers once used to produce durable white milk paint for their barns.

What has resulted with the milk protein is a bio-based polyamide (a high temperature polymer) with insulating properties to withstand heat at temperatures of 300 degrees centigrade. Currently, oil-based polymer foam insulation degrades at high temperatures, says Schiraldi. Clay aerogel composites have the potential to insulate hundreds of miles of noninsulated piping carrying high-temperature materials throughout refineries.

But milk is not the only bio-based substance the group has used. He has also experimented with the seaweed protein alginate used to thicken ice creams and materials from corn like corn starch, but overall casein continues to produce a better product.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF AEROCLAY

Before joining the university faculty, Schiraldi spent 20 years as a research scientist at Hoechst Celanese, one of the world's largest chemical companies. The original aeroclay was made when a graduate student working with Schiraldi mixed clay and water in a blender and then freeze-dried the substance. The technique produced a layered, cotton-like substance.

Initially the two researchers thought a mistake had been made, so Schiraldi sent the grad student back to the lab. When he didn't hear from the student after a week, Schiraldi called and asked what had happened.

He says the graduate student replied: "The same thing seven days in a row."

While he thought he had made a new discovery, a 1-inch column of copy in an old journal article from the 1940s described a similar substance made with a different kind of clay.

Schiraldi knew he was on to something, but at that time the industry wasn't ready to pursue this new material.

Now we have this amazing green product, says Schiraldi.


'/>"/>

Contact: Susan Griffith
susan.griffith@case.edu
216-368-1004
Case Western Reserve University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Case Western Reserve University receives $1.66m grant from NIH for otoprotection research
2. The fragility of the worlds coral is revealed through a study of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
3. Collaboration leads to success: Most powerful computer of its kind in western N.Y. available worldwide
4. Diabetics on high-fiber diets might need extra calcium, report UT Southwestern researchers
5. Two UT Southwestern researchers awarded Sloan fellowships
6. Antioxidants in Midwestern black raspberries influenced by production site
7. UT Southwestern researchers identify molecule that helps the sleep-deprived to mentally rebound
8. Case Western Reserve researchers develop wireless activation of brain circuits
9. Case Western Reserve researchers looking at light-induced toxins in air and water
10. UT Southwestern researchers disrupt biochemical system involved in cancer, degenerative disease
11. Natural brain substance blocks weight gain in mice, UT Southwestern researchers discover
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/14/2016)... NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), ... the airing of a new series of commercials on Time ... 21 st .  The commercials will air on Bloomberg TV, ... the Street show. --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or ... market, announces the airing of a new series of commercials ...
(Date:3/10/2016)... Pa. , March 10, 2016   Unisys Corporation ... Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is testing its biometric ... San Diego to help identify certain non-U.S. ... . The test, designed to help determine the efficiency ... environment, began in February and will run until May 2016. ...
(Date:3/3/2016)... -- FlexTech, a SEMI Strategic Association Partner, awarded five FLEXI ... Leadership in Education, and, in a category new this ... year of the FLEXI Awards and the winners join ... past years . Judging was done on a set ... by a panel of non-affiliated, independent, industry experts. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/29/2016)... and San Diego, CA (PRWEB) , ... April 29, 2016 , ... ... Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF) to support the development of a patient-specific stem cell therapy ... Andrés Bratt-Leal in the lab of Dr. Jeanne Loring at The Scripps Research Institute ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... NEW YORK , April 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... biotechnology acceleration company reports the Company,s CEO  was ... capital titled Accelerators Enter When VCs Fear To ... Life Science Leader magazine is an ... work for everything from emerging biotechs to Big ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... ... April 28, 2016 , ... ... hold an open house for regional manufacturers at its Maple Grove, Minnesota technical ... Okuma, Hardinge Group, Chiron and Trumpf. Almost 20 leading suppliers of tooling, ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... April 27, 2016 , ... ... screen mobile devices with fingerprint recognition for secure access, voice recognition for hands-free ... few ways consumers are interacting with biometrics technology today. But if they ...
Breaking Biology Technology: