"Self-destructing plastic" wins top Prize in Create the Future contest

October 7, 2021

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Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually – equivalent to the entire weight of the human population. Less than 10% is recycled; most end up in landfills. A research team in the lab of Professor Ting Xu, Professor of Materials Science & Engineering and Chemistry at the University of California Berkeley and Aaron Hall (Ph.d. '20, Mater. Sci. Eng. C) co-inventor and founder of Intropic Materials, are attacking this problem from the inside out, by embedding enzymes in the plastics during manufacturing that, once triggered, cause the plastics to self-destruct and completely degrade in days. All that's left behind are small molecules that can be composted or used to make new plastics. This breakthrough technology has been awarded the Grand Prize of $25,000 in the 2021 "Create the Future" Design Contest, produced by SAE Media Group.

"I'm really honored," said Dr. Hall. "At Intropic, we're making self-destructing plastics to address the challenge of plastic waste. By bringing together the natural bio machines and these synthetic materials, we can help to bring to fruition a truly circular bioeconomy."

Engineers and students from 55 countries submitted new product ideas to the contest, which was established in 2002 to recognize and reward engineering innovations that benefit humanity, the environment, and the economy. This year's contest was co-sponsored by COMSOL (www.comsol.com) and Mouser Electronics (www.mouser.com). Analog Devices and Intel were supporting sponsors.

"COMSOL is grateful for the opportunity to support innovators and their important work through the Create the Future Design Contest," said Bernt Nilsson, Senior VP of Marketing with COMSOL, Inc. "A better tomorrow is possible only if we keep an open mind and give new ideas a chance to flourish. This is exactly what the Create the Future Design Contest is doing. Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to all participants for the many great and truly innovative ideas that will help bring a brighter future."

"We are ecstatic to see the amazing ingenuity behind this year's group of Create the Future entries," says Kevin Hess, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Mouser Electronics. "Mouser offers its sincere congratulations to the winners and commends the entrants for their creative designs."