|Wool inspects a shoe made from eco-leather.|
Richard Wool, a professor of chemical and bio-molecular engineering at University of Delaware, wins the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for Academics for his extensive work in developing an array of low-toxicity bio-based materials to support the green energy infrastructure. The Environmental Protection Agency awards program recognizes the design of safer and more sustainable, processes and products annually in five categories: Academic, Small Business, Greener Synthetic Pathways, Greener Reaction Conditions, and Designing Greener Chemicals. Wool created several high-performance materials using sustainable feedstocks including vegetable oils, recycled paper, chicken feathers, and flax fiber to make pressure-sensitive adhesives, composite resins, foams, and synthetic leather. Wool states that finding low toxicity replacements for commodity plastics such as polystyrene and PVC, adhesives, foams and composite resins, in addition to leather-like materials, must be a priority if we are to benefit the environment and human health. One of his more recent inventions is a breathable, eco-leather made from soybean oil and natural fiber. Wool’s start-up company, Eco-Leather Corp., avoids the traditional chemical leather tanning process and has resulted in collaborations with popular companies such as Nike and Puma to use the leather substitute in their products.