People will get some form of inspiration for some reason. In the case of Sohi Sanjay Pate, it was the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy in India that led to her coming up with an eco-friendly foam. The efforts of the Indian-American student won the Patrick H Hurd Sustainability Award for the breakthrough during the 2021 virtual Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

Pate is a sophomore student from Texas high school. She came up with the idea of coming up with a different kind of foam from a plant-derived flame-retardant polyurethane foam that could be used for housing insulation and other applications, the EPA stated.

For those who may be wondering about the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy in India, this was the time when over 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from a pesticide plant. MIC gas is a main raw material for manufacturing polyurethane foam which is used for insulation and as a cushioning material in different products.

All this was contained in her work titled, “Scalable and Sustainable Synthesis of a Novel, Bio-Based Polyurethane Foam System Incorporating Industrial Byproducts and Waste.” It focuses on replacing MIC with different greener components to make polyurethane.

Pate was able to develop two novel biochemicals using non-toxic waste products. She was able to create a more sustainable polyurethane foam.

The sophomore student’s efforts are just one of several concepts that cropped up at this year’s ISEF. EPA Science Advisor Dr. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta lauded her and other student finalists for their ideas and efforts to come up with ways to help protect human health and the environment that is inspiring.

Aside from Pate, Charlotte Michaluk was also given special mention by the US Environmental Protection Agency at the 2021 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair according to Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of the Society for Science and Publisher of Science News.

Polystyrene boxes labelled 'biohazard' sit outside the Urban Institute for Disease Prevention and Control in Bangkok Polystyrene boxes labelled 'biohazard' sit outside the Urban Institute for Disease Prevention and Control in Bangkok Getty Images | Jack TAYLOR / AFP