Mapúa University graduate student Mark Kennedy Bantugon has invented a game changer for global aviation as well as the local agricultural sector.
The Pili Seal, a two-component sealant made from the waste material of pili tree resin, or spent or de-oiled resin, stole the show at the Philippine leg of the James Dyson Awards 2021, where Bantugon was hailed the national winner.
If successful, it could create the country’s first aviation sealant industry and stimulate a sustainable manufacturing activity in the countryside.
Composed of a base and a hardener, the sealant proved strong, reliable, impermeable, and heat resistant, which is ideal for aircraft components that are constantly exposed to liquids and the elements.
The Pili Tree: Where it all began
But the process was not easy picking. It took the young inventor more than 18 months to develop the sealant.
Bantugon was accidentally introduced to the potential sealant during a visit to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). A custodian was gathering the viscous spent pili resin for disposal, and he immediately asked for some samples.
After doing some tests, he realized the spent resin performed better than the jackfruit and antipolo raw materials he used in high school for his earlier invention, a roofing sealant. It didn’t take long before he used the pili de-oiled resin as the foundation in creating the Pili Seal.
And the fact that it came from a waste material further picked his excitement. He hoped that his win at the James Dyson Award 2021 conveyed and sparked a paradigm shift on repurposing waste materials.
“My goal was to introduce and exhibit a new perspective, that a specific waste material can be given a new function or role in our community, which is beneficial not only in the Philippines but globally,” said Bantugon.
Since the Pili Seal is made of sustainable raw material, it is safe and healthy to use compared with the toxic and foul-smelling sealants in the market.
Bantugon’s invention is not only inexpensive to produce. It also has the potential to uplift the Philippine farming community, which he and his family are part of, once the demand for the Pili Seal and pili-spent resin kicks in.
Overcoming the obstacles
Bantugon’s efforts to produce his aircraft sealant weren’t always smooth sailing. Since he was doing a pioneer study, the lack of scientific research or related literature on hand meant longer days for him in the lab.
Having the experimental sealant checked at industrial testing facilities was also challenging, as majority refused the samples for fear that it might damage their equipment.
Fortunately, Bantugon got the support of the DOST’s Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory (ADMATEL), and Forest Products Research and Development Institute, the Energy Research and Testing Laboratory Services of the Department of Energy, and other private testing companies.
Nonetheless, Bantugon remained unsatisfied.
The young inventor enrolled in Mapúa University’s Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering by Research program.
The University’s reputation of being the leader in engineering and sciences, with emphasis on research, makes it the ideal environment for those like him who believe in the importance and essence of research.
“Mapúa trains their student-researchers. They have a lot of students who excel in research and education. The quality of education Mapúa provides helps students like me to step out of our comfort zones and pursue our passions,” he said.
While he’s waiting for the results of the final and international leg of the James Dyson Award this October, where his Pili Seal will compete with 84 other inventions worldwide, Bantugon is collaborating with local organizations to help him patent and commercialize it.
“My goal is to use this invention as a gateway to create our own manufacturing of aviation sealant in the Philippines. I want to give back to the local farming community, particularly in agriculture. I want to give our local farmers a new income opportunity,” he added.
Bantugon is the second Mapúan whose invention received recognition from the award-giving body.
Electrical engineering student Carvey Ehren R. Maigue was named the first-ever Sustainability Winner of the international tilt for his invention, the Aurora Renewable Energy and UV Sequestration (AuREUS), besting 1,800 other entries from design engineers across 28 countries.
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