Now, Eckblad is a year into a project so promising that a panel of judges awarded him second place in a statewide contest to develop nontoxic building products that have the potential to launch new
As part of his prize he will receive
"It (wasn't) until I came here and started Product Design that I got interested and invested," said Eckblad, who is about to start his senior year in the Product Design program at UO's Architecture and Allied Arts college. "I owe a lot to that school."
Last fall, he took a class called Experimental Materials with
Eckblad had heard about cellulose nanocrystals a couple years earlier. During his research for the class project he came across
Another part of his prize in the Oregon BEST Red List Design Challenge is ongoing mentorship and coaching to help try to develop his idea into an
The goal of the contest, which began this year, is to find ideas with the potential to be commercially viable, according to the organizers, the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center and the
Simonsen is now one of the mentors working with Eckblad -- and an ever-expanding team of undergraduates and instructors who are excited by the potential to develop a market for nanofiber cellulose.
Eckblad, who is from the
"Right now it's pretty heavily researched, but there are no products using it," Eckblad said. "This insulation material is just the first glance kind of thing. This is just a look at what is possible with this material. ... It's cheap, it's lightweight and 100 percent sustainable and plays off
He said it might be premature to estimate, but the math he has done indicates using cellulose for insulation would be much less expensive to produce than fiberglass.
Products could be made from invasive species, yard waste, waste from logging, sawdust -- any cellulose byproduct that is not chemically treated, he said.
The energy-intensive part of the process is converting the original jelly-like substance into a durable, hard material by exposing it to really low temperatures and sucking the evaporated water out, leaving insulating air pockets, he said.
So far, Eckblad and his team have been using equipment not exactly designed for their purposes. Although they have not spoken in detail about how to spend the
"With this material, we can make a lot of great things," he said.
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