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Grad stude invention boosts global aviation

If successful, it could create the country’s first aviation sealant industry and stimulate a sustainable manufacturing activity in the countryside.

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Mapúa University graduate student Mark Kennedy Bantugon. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MAPúA

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.

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,” Bantugon said.

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.

His 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, 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.

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