Materials World July 2019

The world is crying out for alternatives to fossil-fuels, not to demonise functional categories of materials, but to create more sustainable supply chains and protect precious resources and profit margins. Despite the matter affecting most disciplines, society often gets stuck on the subject of packaging waste and fails to see beyond this. So this month, we take a wider look at the area of bio-based materials, how they are developing and their unexpected applications.

Sanitary products are an excellent example, being of fundamental importance not only to women’s health, but also their ability to live a normal life with dignity. But these heavily polymer-based products are thrown away by the millions, and are usually incinerated, racking up a vast emissions burden. In rural India, mass market products are hard to come by, and we speak to an entreprenuer bringing personal care and jobs to rural communities through sanitary products. Employing local workforces and using biodegradable materials has helped boost the economy, while introducing a new product that improves lives and leaves no waste, being compostable without the need for industrial facilities. Read more on page 30.

However, material substitutions are rarely straightforward, often requiring in-depth research, planning and a gradual transition. On page 34, Yvonne van der Meer of Maastricht University, Netherlands, discusses the bio-based material value chain and how to determine the real-world impact of making the shift.

We also look at the chemistry of bacterial cellulose, hear potential applications of polyvinyl alcohol, learn about hybrid bamboo, and find out how bio-resins are making timber greener. This, plus all of the regular items.

Ceri Jones, Editor

News this issue:

Growing compostable gourd cups

Fish skins help tissue repair

Air pollution problem for outdoor workers

Steel foam armour stops bullets

Textile batteries for wearable devices

Get talking – Pride in STEM

Hydrogen reactor offers pure product streams

Waitrose launches home-compostable ready meal trays

New method for 3D-printing organs

Carbon-fibre composite frame braided for very light rail

Paper stickers demonstrate better alternative for testing food than swabs

RECOUP releases report on plastic recycling and effects on local authorities

Smart materials made in minutes using eco-friendly acoustic technique

The University of Sheffield joins European 3D printing consortium

Urbach Tower in Germany constructed with self-shaping wood

Sequins made from wood could be bio-based alternative in fashion

UK search for ‘straw-ternatives’ after plastic straw ban for 2020

An insight into timber in construction and regulation following the Barking blaze

Features this issue:

Making a non-toxic wood glue

Q&A with Carmel Grant from IfATE

T Levels – the positives and potential pitfalls

Material Marvels: La Specola Observatory