|Project Title: Chitosanic Change: An Attempt to Create a Hydrophobic, Biodegradable, Super-Absorbent Polymer That Can Control, Extract, and Absorb Waste|
|Individual/Team Leader’s Name: Emhyr Subramanian|
|School & City: Challenge School, Denver|
|Sponsor’s Name: John Wiley|
|Category: Chemistry & Biochemistry||Division: Junior|
|Abstract— The purpose of the project was to:
1. To test an existing super-absorbent polymer (SAP) on different environments.
2. To create a hydrophobic, biodegradable, SAP.
3. SAP should be able to be used in water filtration, organic pollutant cleanup, and spill control.
The existing SAP must be tested on organic waste in different water types. All samples were run through gas chromatograph. To create the biodegradable SAP, a base polymer must be crosslinked. Chitosan and DSP cross-linker were identified as the base materials.
In the testing of the SAP (non-biodegradable), the percentages of slick absorbed were 99.80% for seawater, 99.19% for stream water, and 97.75% for de-ionized water.
The SAP tested can be concluded to be an extremely effective solution to waste absorption and performs better in seawater than the other two tests, though not by much. Unfortunately, the SAP leaves a lot of residue after cleanup. Not being biodegradable, it can be consumed by aquatic life, thus harmful to the environment.
After extensive research, a polymer and cross-linker were identified and a super-absorbent polymer was created. Due to the expensive price tag of the materials, not enough biodegradable polymer could be created such that testing could occur.
Since the CAS 100 that was tested worked successfully and fit most predictions made, the hypothesis was accurate to a great degree and the experiment was a success.________________________________________________
Emhyr Subramanian, 8th Grade
Challenge School, Aurora, Colorado
A Study of Super-Absorbent Polymers and Their Effectiveness in Organic Waste Extraction
Project Background: Large amounts of organic waste chemicals wind up in waterways every year, due to oil spills and other pollution. “Unfortunately, no current solutions exist that can treat this problem in an environmentally friendly and effective manner,” Emhyr reports. He decided to see if a commercially available super-absorbent polymer could efficiently remove organic waste from water. If this was possible, Emhyr wanted to develop a new polymer that could both complete that job and biodegrade afterwards.
Tactics and Results: To begin, Emhyr tested whether a super-absorbent polymer really could remove organic waste chemicals from water. He mixed diesel oil into separate containers of de-ionized water, stream water and seawater to mimic oil spills. He followed a similar process with three different groups of soil, then he treated each experimental group with a commercially available product called CAS 100. The product repels water, but otherwise acts like a super-soaker: it can absorb other types of liquids by up to ten times its weight. In Emhyr’s tests, the CAS 100 worked well, as it absorbed almost all the waste from each experimental group of polluted water. He reasoned that the concept could work, at least with spills on water. Even so, those tests were inconclusive because the treatment product picked up chemicals from the soil. Next, Emhyr set out to develop a biodegradable super-absorbent polymer. He identified one promising compound, but unfortunately, one component cost too much for him to produce enough testing material. “The experiment was a partial success,” Emhyr concludes. He is now working with companies to get more of the component for future work.
Other Interests: “I feel that if I were to become an environmental engineer, I could develop effective solutions to help solve climate change and change the world,” Emhyr says. “The two things I love the most are playing the violin and solving Rubik’s cube,” Emhyr adds. In addition to performing with the school orchestra, Emhyr regularly plays his violin at local farmers’ markets. His goal is to raise money for a nonprofit organization he started to provide solar energy to schools in Kerala, India.