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Autoparts made out of…shrimp and crab?

A fishy solution to petroleum-based automotive components won a University of Toronto student a $10,000 scholarship from AUTO21.


February 2, 2012
by Canadian Manufacturing Daily Staff

MISSISSAUGA—A new biodegradable material made from shrimp and crab shells that can replace petroleum-based plastics used in auto components helped University of Toronto student Aaron Guan win the AUTO21 TestDRIVE competition.

The Master of science student has been awarded a $10,000 scholarship for his innovation.

Shrimp and crab shell fibres called chitin nanowhiskers form the base of the material, which would allow automotive components to meet strict environmental standards without compromising vehicle safety.

The material has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than conventional plastics used in most automotive components, providing higher mechanical strength without aesthetic flaws or deformation at lower densities.
Mechanical properties can be engineered to suit various strength, stiffness and weight requirements by varying the combination of chitin nanowhisker and polymer content. The material is also completely renewable and sustainable because chitin nanowhiskers are derived from fishing industry waste.

The AUTO21 TestDRIVE competition showcases technologies and automotive knowledge developed by 400 student contributors and 200 academic researchers.

Anthony Lombardi of Ryerson University was also awarded a $5,000 scholarship for his research on reducing distortion in aluminum engine blocks, while a $2,500 scholarship was awarded to Tara Kajaks of McMaster University for research on improving ergonomic simulation and modeling in manufacturing plants.