In a project funded by the Technology Strategy Board, British manufacturer Dyson is working with the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing and the Centre for Process innovation on consumer products made of biopolymers. The work carried out will assess the high level economic and technical feasibility of using biopolymers in a closed loop process, which may ultimately improve the ability to recycle consumer products.
“Biopolymers are really exciting because they have the potential to be reused infinitely and that is the perfect material if you want to look at recycling, because you don’t lose performance and you can essentially use less material,” explained Owen Nicholson, Dyson’s external research program manager.
The Centre for Process Innovation is a UK-based technology innovation center and part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. It uses applied knowledge in science and engineering combined with state of the art facilities to enable clients to develop, prove, prototype and scale up the next generation of products and processes.
As the building blocks of bioplastics and bio-sourced resins, biopolymers are typically made from plant-based starches or sugars and can be applied to a wide range of applications such as food packaging, 3D printing and consumer electronics. Alongside the end-of-life benefit of reclaiming and recycling materials, biopolymers also have other appealing traits which make them useful in this application, such as transparency, surface gloss, high rigidity and processing flexibility.
However, the way forward remains challenging and will require a “concerted effort and could take a number of years” according to Graham Hillier, Director of Strategy and Futures at CPI. Despite this, Dr Hillier notes that this project will help pave the way for future developments in this area. “The approach developed by CPI, Institute for Manufacturing and Dyson in this project will form a good basis for assessing similar studies across a wide range of polymers and industries.”
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