By Jessie Miller
By Jessie Miller 9/22/15
I am a member of the Outreach Committee of the USGBC MA Chapter and we strive to highlight great people who are doing great work in the green building community and beyond. This month, I had the pleasure of meeting with Evan Solomonides. Evan is not your average brilliant freshman starting at Cornell this year (majoring in astrophysics and minoring in mathematics). He is also focused on sharing his innovative bioplastic with the world and taking the insulation industry by storm.
Evan is looking for a company to partner with and take his product to market. His thirty second elevator pitch is: “through this process which I developed, you can produce a plastic that can be processed into an insulation that is virtually as effective as the leading synthetic insulations but is cheaper, completely environmentally friendly, organic, non flammable, non toxic, environmentally safe in every way and for a greatly reduced cost.” The bioplastic concept originated during his junior year at Mass Academy of Math and Science in his STEM class project. With the class’ support, he zeroed in on his interest in material science: “the idea of taking raw materials and making an entirely new substance that has never existed before [is] so cool to me.” During this time, Evan read an article in Scientific American “about bio plastics [as well as] how horrible regular plastics are for the environment…how they are all toxic and petroleum based and they are horrifically inefficient to produce.” At the end of the day, he found his inspiration in bioplastics: “There is no reason there can’t be something better.”
After months of “messing around with compounds that could serve as bonding agents [and] plasticizers” he focused his efforts on using cheap, plentiful, and effective ingredients. After one night of leaving a pot filled with ingredients on the stove for too long, he realized that he had stumbled on a new type of bioplastic: “the thing that is special about it is that its so dirt cheap and thermally resistive” and eventually realized that he could “use it as an insulation.” He recognizes that bioplastics typically have a bad reputation since they are considered not as effective as typical insulative materials and are more expensive. Despite the bad rep, he asserts that his product “is as effective [and] it’s less expensive.” Others agree with Evan. He has competed his product and recently won third and the BioGENEius Award at the Mass State Science Engineering Fair (MSSEF), as well as a Naval Science Research Award: “that went super well.” However, this win did not come without significant hurtles. Last year his efforts were brought to a standstill after a serious car accident that entered him into a coma for a month last year. He missed the MSSEF during his junior year and doctors suggested he not overstrain himself. However
Evan was quickly back on his feet, continued to develop his product and made it into an award-winning, insulative bioplastic. Evan took his product once step further by engaging the outside world. He connected with a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute whom Evan had interned with in the past and worked with him to find “the exact thermal conductivity” of the bioplastic. He also leveraged his connections at Mass Academy and who introduced him to contacts in the plastics industry and in turn, these contacts helped him to develop his project for the MSSEF. In addition to networking, he reached out to multiple law firms to help obtain a provisional patent for his product.
At the end of the day, Evan wants to work with a company that can take his product to market: “I’ve put a lot of work into this thing and I want to see it used.” Evan also recognizes the effective and inexpensive benefits of his product could translate well in developing countries, like insulating hospitals in the developing world with local starches.
Evan’s story is one of perseverance, resiliency, ambition and humility. He’s not afraid to work hard, make mistakes and change course to maximize his product’s potential impact in this world. Evan’s determination to take his product to market with the help of an interested company is both contagious and inspiring.
Interest, questions, comments about Evan’s work, please email [email protected]
If you know of someone who should be featured like Evan, please email [email protected]