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Indian American Sohi Sanjay Patel Wins EPA Award for Eco-Friendly Foam Alternative

Indian American Sohi Sanjay Patel Wins EPA Award for Eco-Friendly Foam Alternative

Sohi Sanjay Patel, a high school student in The Woodlands, Texas, was named the winner of the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award at the 2021 virtual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. (usaid.gov photo)

India-West Staff Reporter

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency June 8 announced that Sohi Sanjay Patel, an Indian American high school student in The Woodlands, Texas, was named the winner of the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award at the 2021 virtual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair.

Sohi’s project proposes to provide a plant-derived, flame retardant polyurethane foam that could be used for housing insulation and other applications, according to the EPA news release.

Patel’s work was motivated by the impact of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in India when over 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide plant.

MIC gas is a main raw material for manufacturing polyurethane foam. Polyurethane foam is used for insulation and as a cushioning material in a wide variety of products, the release said.

Patel’s work, titled, “Scalable and Sustainable Synthesis of a Novel, Bio-Based Polyurethane Foam System Incorporating Industrial Byproducts and Waste,” focuses on replacing MIC with greener components for making polyurethane.

In particular, she developed two novel biochemicals, using nontoxic waste products, to create a polyurethane foam more sustainably, according to the release.

“The student finalists in this year’s ISEF are applying science, technology, engineering and math concepts in remarkable ways to help protect human health and the environment, and their projects are truly inspiring,” said EPA science adviser Dr. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta. “Despite a challenging academic year, I congratulate all of this year’s finalists for their remarkable passion and enthusiasm, and I encourage them to continue to seek innovative ways to tackle complex environmental challenges.”

EPA’s Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award provides funds for the winner to travel to EPA’s National Sustainability Design Expo.

The Expo features the university and college student teams participating in EPA’s P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet program, which encourages innovative designs applying STEM concepts to address environmental challenges, the release notes.

Created and produced by the Society for Science & the Public, the virtual 2021 Regeneron ISEF showcased the innovative projects of 1,833 finalists from 64 countries, regions and territories who compete for approximately $5 million in awards and scholarships.

Since 2009, EPA has participated in the ISEF by recognizing a project that demonstrates a commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship with the EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award.

“Congratulations to Sohi Sanjay Patel on winning the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award and to Charlotte Michaluk who was selected to receive honorable mention by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the 2021 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair,” Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of the Society for Science and publisher of Science News, said in a statement.

“The students who competed in Regeneron ISEF this year conducted their research under unique circumstances, given the current pandemic. Their dedication to conducting scientific and engineering research gives me hope for the future,” Ajmera added.

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