DOST Secretary Renato U. Solidum Jr. holds up a crude oil soaked CocoFlexSorb – a foam technology developed by the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology that can absorb different types of oil, with reuse capacity of 40 times. DOST Usec. Leah J. Buendia holds a clean pack of the technology. 

A Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Balik Scientist featured a foam technology to solve oil spills.

In an event held on 11 May 2023 by the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), a bio-based polyurethane foam labeled as “CocoFlexSorb” was presented to the public.  This technology, unlike those available in the market, has superior oil absorption capacity and can absorb different types of used oil from light, vegetable, kerosene, engine, and bunker oil.

The CocoFlexSorb may also be reused forty (40) times and is not harmful to the environment.

During field tests held at Occidental Mindoro last May 2023 with the Philippine Coast Guard, the project showed promising results, indicating that this technology could be a solution to an oil spill problem. However, further testing and development are necessary before the technology can be adopted and commercialized.

“DOST is very proud of the accomplishments of MSU-IIT with its collaborative efforts with industry,” said DOST Secretary Renato U. Solidum Jr. “The DOST is steadfast in driving the industry through continuous R&D to enable technological advancement. Innovations like the CocoFlexSorb provides options for a better life to Filipinos like clean water and a healthy environment,” he added.

This technology is developed from the DOST-Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER) program Center for Sustainable Polymers at the MMSU-IIT.  The inaugurated innovation center showcased three product lines.

The first is the Rigid Insulation Foam Panels, designed specifically for the building and construction industry, targeting the segment that prioritize sustainable and eco-friendly materials. It is the first of its kind to use polyol derived entirely from coconut oil, without any petroleum-based substitutes.

The second is the Viscoelastic Foams, a bio-based alternative to commercially available “memory” foams.  This product has higher density than conventional foams and possesses the signature feature of memory foams – slow recovery.

The third is the Superoleophilic Foams that showed potential to absorb numerous types of oil. The material has been proven to have high affinity and sorption capacity in bunker oil, fresh and used engine oil, kerosene, and vegetable oils. It is hydrophobic in both fresh and salt water and has superior reusability as its oil sorption capacity does not diminish with use.

Pushing for sustainability as one of its strategies, the DOST continuously funds universities like MSU-IIT to through the NICER Program to capacitate Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the regions and make significant improvement in regional research by integrating its development needs with the existing R&D research capabilities and resources. It will provide institutional grant for R&D capacity building to improve their S&T infrastructure.

“The development of eco-friendly and cost-effective polymers derived from natural sources shows promise in mitigating the impact of oil spills. With this achievement, we hope to inspire researchers to continue investing in innovative technologies and collaborations to work towards a cleaner and healthier environment,” said Dr. Arnold A. Lubguban, DOST Balik Scientist and Project Leader of MSU-IIT’s Center for Sustainable Polymer.

On the other hand, DOST Undersecretary for R&D Leah J. Buendia said, “We need to develop the country’s innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem through linkages between academe, industry, and government.  This translates to upgrades in products and services in our local companies. The breakthroughs in MSU-IIT is the perfect example of harmonizing our resources combined with the support given to our Filipino scientists.”