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Mechanical Engineering Professor Teng Li, along with Associate Professor Liangbing Hu (Department of Materials Science & Engineering) won the 2019 University of Maryland (UMD) invention of the year award in the physical sciences category for their high performance graphite-paper composites.

The team developed a lightweight, strong and tough composite, assembled using fine graphite flakes that are dispersed into nano-fibrillated cellulose (NFC) and dissolved in room temperature water. The resulting graphite-NFC slurry is then printed into large sheets that, once fully dried, are not only stronger than most steel, but also six times as light, yielding a strength higher than any existing metals and alloys currently available. This material is fully degradable, offering a promising solution to the global plastic problem, in addition to being low-cost.

As part of the event, Li was also asked to present their research findings to athletic clothing and materials  innovator Under Armour.

Since 1987, UMD has honored exceptional inventions that have the potential to make a transformative impact on science, society, and the free market. The Invention of the Year award nominees are selected from prior year invention disclosures in three categories: physical sciences, life sciences, and information sciences. A panel of judges selected one invention from each category to win the 2018 Invention of the Year Award and one overall winner.

 “Strong and Tough Graphite-Paper Composites”
Invention of the Year: Physical Sciences Category

Scientists are trying to prevent the further collection of plastic waste in landfills by inventing new biodegradable materials that are cheap to manufacture and can eventually replace plastic. University of Maryland researchers have developed a potential replacement for petroleum-based plastics and metal-based structural materials: a high-performance hybrid material of graphite and cellulose that is cheap to manufacture and fully degradable. The material is made by dispersing fine graphite flakes into nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) dissolved in room temperature water. The resulting stable and homogeneous graphite-NFC slurry is then printed into large sheets that, once cast dried, are not only stronger than most steel, but also significantly lighter.

The invention team includes

  • Liangbing Hu, Assistant Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Maryland Energy Innovation Institute
  • Yubing Zhou, Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Maryland Nanocenter
  • Chaoji Chen, Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Maryland Nanocenter
  • Teng Li, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Maryland Energy Innovation Institute
  • Robert Foster, Executive Vice President of Development, Trinity Rail Group

***

The team was recognized during Innovate Maryland, an annual event hosted April 11, 2019, at The Hotel at the University of Maryland.  

Learn more about this year’s awardees.



April 17, 2019


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