Materials

Renuables conducts R&D into renewable and sustainable materials.

Our philosophy is to use materials in the most efficient manner possible. This means that the whole of the life of the material needs to be considered, from manufacture, use phase and end of life. All of this must be considered in order to make the most appropriate choice of materials. Our work involves the ultimate aim of reducing environmental footprints of materials to zero, or even in some cases having an environmental benefit.

Our research and development activities have primarily been concerned with the processing, modification and use of sustainable and renewable materials derived (in the main) directly from photosynthetic sources. Examples of our research and development activities include:

Natural fibres

The use of natural fibres in composites or as building materials (such as insulation) has long been a subject of research interest to us at Renuables. We have also been looking at ways of utilising cellulose nano whiskers and nanofibrillated cellulose in materials. Our work has shown how hygrothermal properties can be used to provide dynamic benefits in use and how adverse effects are a thing of the past.

Biopolymers

Modification of natural polymers for a variety of end use applications. For example thermoplasticisation of starch and other polysaccharides for barrier applications and the use of natural materials, such a vegetable oils for coating and adhesive applications.

Biorefining

Development and scaling up of technologies for the deconstruction of the cell wall and fractionation and purification of the different components.

Natural Fibre Composites

Work presented by Dr Andrew Norton in 2004 showed that potentially cheaper fibre formats could reveal the potential of natural fibres, utilising  their unique properties rather than assume they will work like synthetics.

Improving Performance

Timber and natural fibre insulation materials have a good relationship with water, but potential users have occasionally been put off as they are worried about adverse affects. We have shown how indoor humidity and even temperature can be regulated through the intelligent use of natural materials and that thermal insulation properties are not affected by RH fluctuations except in the most extreme situations where all insulation materials are affected.

Modification of wood and other lignocellulosic materials

This involves chemical, physical or biological modification to improve the biological durability, weathering resistance, dimensional stability of the material, but without compromising the ability to recycle or dispose at the end of the life cycle. Renuables own Prof Callum Hill literally wrote the book on chemical modification of timber – get in touch if you would like to know more.