Renewable Materials

starbons, researcher with bioboard, wheat

Renewable resources are gaining increasing importance as a viable alternative for petroleum-derived materials. In addition, the use of by-products or waste materials from more conventional processes or agricultural operations is greening up our society as well as adding significant value to local economies.

Utilising naturally abundant resources and in particular agricultural and food by-products, we have developed a range of materials which take full advantage of the chemical composition, rich functionality and structure in plant metabolites and other biomass.

Some of the applications already developed from these materials include:

  • Adsorption-release matrices, separations and chromatography
  • Heterogeneous organic acid, bases, metals and enzymes catalysis
  • Films, adhesives and composites

In addition to basic research pioneered in this area, we collaborate in and lead major industrial consortia projects to deliver products for a range of industrial applications.

Selected case studies of our current and past projects are illustrated below:

Bio-Oil from Pyrolysis of Waste Paper

Biorenewable materials, especially low-value and underutilised bio-waste streams, represent an important feedstock for the generation of value-added chemicals, fuels and functional materials.

Pyrolysis is one of the most important thermochemical routes for decomposition of bio-waste into potentially value-added products (i.e. gas, char and bio-oil). However, the further upgrading of bio-oil represents a global grand challenge. We have found that bio-oil generated from low-temperature (<200 °C) microwave-assisted pyrolysis of waste paper can be used directly as an adhesive for metal to metal bonding.

Metal adhesives are widely used nowadays, especially in the automotive and aerospace industry, mainly for their excellent properties and the ability to bond substrates with more uniform stress and strain distributions than other joint techniques.

Bio-Boards Project

This multi-partner collaborative industrial project focused on the development of green structural panels, wholly based on agricultural by-products. The project applied biorefinery concepts to generate materials, energy and chemical products from renewable resourses. 

It aimed to develop generic methodologies applicable to a variety of raw materials, reducing feedstock dependence, impact on biodiversity and providing added value to farmers.

SWIFT Switchable Adhesives

This multi-partner industrial project focused on the development of green switchable adhesives for carpet tiles. With current adhesives used in the product, components are not separable and therefore not recyclable. Over 90% of post-consumer tiles and waste from manufacture end up in landfill sites.

Modified starch switchable adhesives developed in this project enable separation and recycling of components providing a green alternative to currently used synthetic polymers. The new adhesives have excellent mechanical performance and additionally are flame resistant removing the need for auxiliary flame retardant chemicals.