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Bringing plastics to the people

NSF Award:

Center for Sustainable Polymers  (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities)

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Each summer, researchers connected with the University of Minnesota's Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP) participate in the Minnesota State Fair. This presence provides an opportunity for CSP affiliates to showcase their products and for the public to experience tangible applications of CSP work.

Throughout the 12-day fair, the CSP hosts a booth in the EcoExperience Building to engage the public in the center's research. The booth illustrates the sustainability loop and describes polymers. It also showcases commercial products made from sustainable polymers. Approximately 300,000 people pass through the EcoExperience building each year and can participate in an open dialogue with CSP scientists about the importance of their research  and the challenges it presents.

This outreach effort requires 144 volunteer hours every summer and involves every researcher at the center. Through this unique venue CSP researchers listen to the public describe their support and concerns regarding CSP's work. The researchers also gain experience in effectively communicating their work to a public audience in an accessible way.

Images (1 of )

  • a researcher explains his work to minnesota state fair attendees
  • fairgoers learn about commercial products made with sustainable polymers
  • polymer chains and soy-based polyol foam cubes were part of the display
A researcher explains the sustainability loop.
L. Seifert, University of Minnesota
Fairgoers learn about commercial products made with sustainable polymers.
L. Seifert, University of Minnesota
Polymer chains and soy-based polyol foam cubes were part of the display.
L. Seifert, University of Minnesota

Recent Award Highlights

schematic shows the process to create nanochannels

Novel polymer membranes improve energy technologies

Material surface properties and pore dimensions adjust depending on the application

Research Areas: Chemistry & Materials, Nanoscience Locations: Minnesota
an undergraduate synthesizes a luminescent probe for iron and iron enzymes

Tracking disease sources with light

Light-emitting molecules combine with imaging techniques to target disease

Research Areas: Chemistry & Materials Locations: Minnesota