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NYU Tandon scientist is in “Innovators Under 35” list
Oct '17
NYU Tandon scientist is in “Innovators Under 35” list
Miguel Modestino, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, has been named among the MIT Technology Review, Spanish edition "Innovators Under 35," for his work integrating solar processes into the chemical industry. The honour is given to 35 young researchers from Central and South America.

A native of Venezuela, Modestino, 31, is recognised for his work integrating solar processes into the chemical industry, replacing fossil fuel-intensive practices with sustainable methods that rely on biomass feedstocks and solar energy. Modestino's primary focus is the textile industry; specifically, he is working to revolutionise the process of producing nylon used for fabrics and industrial components - a $20 billion per-year market.

An estimated six million tonnes of petrochemical-based nylon is produced worldwide each year in a process that generates significant emissions of carbon dioxide. Modestino's research is paving a path toward sustainable nylon production by harnessing energy from sunlight to fuel the electrochemical and thermochemical reactions necessary to transform plant waste into the precursor materials needed to produce the material. Modestino recently demonstrated in his laboratory a prototype of a solar electrochemical reactor capable of producing adiponitrile from acrylonitrile, a critical early step in nylon production.

"We can redefine every step of this process to reduce the environmental impact of nylon production without sacrificing the end product," said Modestino. "By swapping fossil fuel-based feedstocks for plant-based ones and using solar power to drive the chemical reactions, we can bring significant improvements in this industry and create a model for sustainability in other aspects of the chemical industry."

Modestino emphasises that while these technologies are still early stage, he and his collaborators are taking a pragmatic approach to technology development and potential commercialisation. "We're working within the infrastructure that already exists in chemical plants," he said. "It's much easier to design a technology that can be integrated into an existing nylon manufacturing plant — it may mean the difference between having a real impact on this industry in five years instead of 20."

Modestino joined the NYU Tandon faculty in 2017, after completing his postdoctoral fellowship at École Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne (EPFL). He was recently awarded the Global Change Award from the H & M Foundation in recognition of his efforts to create sustainable textiles.

In addition to being featured in the online magazine published with partner Opinno, winners of the MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35 in Latin America will attend a summit in Mexico Cityin November, joining 200 innovators from more than a dozen countries in the region to exchange ideas and promote collaboration. (SV)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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