Neha Chopade, from left, Pranav Somu and Puja Chopade were first-place winners in the U.S. Army’s 2018-2019 eCybermission Nationals and used their grant for research that led to a U.S. patent. CONTRIBUTED

Neha Chopade, Puja Chopade and Pranav Somu earn U.S. patent

MADISON – As eighth-graders, Neha Chopade, Puja Chopade and Pranav Somu claimed first place in the 2018-2019 eCybermission Nationals. After more research, they refined their innovation in food packaging and have received a U.S. patent.

eCybermission is a web-based STEM initiative that the U.S. Army sponsors. The U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program or AEOP has sponsored eCybermission for 17 years. The National Science Teachers Association administers the program. eCybermission encourages students in grades 6-9 to solve real-world problems in their local communities.

The Madison team, dubbed “Antastic Acids,” received a $5,000 STEM-in-action grant from AEOP to continue their research into ninth grade, parent coach Beena Chopade said. “Using the grant, the team refined their invention and filed for a patent in February 2020.

Their research identified an efficient process for recycling multilayer packages, widely used in food packaging, for example, to bag potato chips and cookies. The process separates individual layers to recover components. “Currently, a commercially viable solution for recycling does not exist for the ubiquitously used packaging. Their patent was granted in August 2021,” Beena said.

“The patented process allows ‘Newcycle’ of each chip bag components in their original form. Patenting the process is the first step towards commercialization,” Beena said. “Interested industry partners can license the process for potential commercial applications.”

Antastic Acids’ project abstract states that the new packaging is a boon for the food industry. It allows long shelf-life and maintains original flavors and freshness,” Beena said.

In 2017, the public produced about 80 million tons of plastic waste, but consumers recycled less than 10 percent. “Our innovative solution involves separating individual layers so each component can be ‘newcycled’ in its original form,” Beena said.

Antastic Acids tested solvents to find an inexpensive, harmless solvent and optimized processing conditions for recovery of the valuable components in their pure form. Their patent abstract said their process recovers aluminum from multilayered packaging.

The team tested with STEM principles:

* Science — Studied solvents to find the top 12 to test.

* Technology – Accelerated project with tools like Microsoft Excel and Minitab Software.

* Engineering – Built a fume hood with available materials.

* Mathematics – Diluted solvents with water for target concentrations.

Dr. Shubham Chopade served as Subject Matter Expert.

Twins Neha Chopade and Puja Chopade attend Bob Jones High School. Pranav Somu is a James Clemens High School student.

For more information, visit ecybermission.com.

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