Context

Brown algal biomass (both wild and farmed) is exploited for food and food ingredients in parts of Asia and Europe, but remains largely unexploited in the UK even though there is a natural abundance and potential for farming. The use of such seaweed biomass has the potential for developing new low carbon materials without putting pressure on agricultural land, and there are new start-up industries trying to develop value chains around brown algae in the UK through farming or collection. More recently, a new driver for valorisation has emerged with the widespread appearance of Sargassum muticum, an invasive brown alga. Alginates are major structural polysaccharides from the cell walls of brown algae and are polymers of acidic sugars. Acidic sugars are a good starting point for the production of diacids that can be polymerised to make renewable and biodegradable plastics.

The research

This project will produce biodegradable, biobased polyesters derived from algae biomass. We are establishing an efficient and sustainable protocol to extract and hydrolyse alginates from farmed and invasive brown algae (Saccharina and Sargassum), oxidise these acidic sugars into polyhydroxyl diacids and use these to produce natural biodegradable polyesters. We aim to use enzymatic conversions in all the steps involved in this process. Together with our industrial partners Unilever, Biome Bioplastics and Biopower Technologies, we are developing a novel, biocatalysed method to produce algae-derived functional polymers, for use as rheology modifiers and films for packaging and home care formulations.

Contact us

Centre for Novel Agricultural Products

cnap@york.ac.uk
+44 (0)1904 328776
Department of Biology, University of York, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD

Featured researcher
Simon McQueen-Mason

Simon McQueen-Mason

Professor McQueen-Mason's research encompasses various aspects of lignocellulosic biorefining and biofuels.

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Featured researcher
Thierry Tonon

Thierry Tonon

Dr Tonon is interested in algal physiology, enzyme characterization, evolution of metabolic pathways, and on developing biotechnological applications based on algae and/or algal genes.

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Featured researcher
Leonardo Gomez

Leonardo Gomez

Dr Gomez specialises in the use of plants as chemical platforms for the production of biorenewable products. 

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Contact us

Centre for Novel Agricultural Products

cnap@york.ac.uk
+44 (0)1904 328776
Department of Biology, University of York, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD