Developing biopolymers & biochemicals
Biopolymers, biomass processed using extrusion, fillers, and novel bio-based additives are some of the products Scion focusses on. Using what nature provides, green chemistry principles and ensuring cost-effectiveness, we develop technologies using renewable resources for plastics, adhesives, coatings, foams, pulp and packaging and fibre-composites.
We collaborate with organisations such as VTT and VITO to develop the bioproducts and sustainable manufacturing methods that will underpin growing circular bioeconomies.
Scion is also a partner in New Zealand’s Biopolymer Network Ltd along with AgResearch and Plant and Food Research.
Listen to Florian Graichen talking about successful incorporation of horticultural waste and aquaculture waste into bio-plastics [RadioNZ]
Find out more about our:
Biopolymers, bioplastics and composite materials
We develop technologies for incorporating renewable and locally-sourced biomaterials into polymer composites. This includes:
- Synthesising new biopolymers such as modified bioesters (e.g. polylactic acid (PLA), polybutylene succinate (PBS)), additives and bioresins from natural polyphenols, terpenes and other bioprecursors.
- Manufacturing plastic composites containing biopolymers and biomass (existing info sheet). Biomass sources include:
- Wood fibre
- New Zealand flax or harakeke (with BPN)
- Kiwifruit skins in Zespri's biospife - read about getting the biospife ready for market
- Grape marc in biodegradable plastics
- Pāua shell - read about pāua shell/bioplastic composites, or watch a video [YouTube]
- Biocomposite processing and application development including
- Foaming (Zealafoam)
- Blown films
- Injection moulding
Equipment, facilities and services
Resources available for use include:
- Five extruders ranging from bench (50 g) to commercial scale.
- Injection moulding
- Polymer foaming for various foams (urethane, phenolic, polyester etc
- Film blowing
- Material characterisation [pdf] and thermal analysis methods that include dynamic mechanical thermal analysis [pdf]
- Life cycle analysis
- Biodegradation and compostability [pdf]
- Microscopy [pdf]
3D printing is additive manufacturing – a process that makes three-dimensional objects by laying down successive layers of material. We are developing both 3D printing feedstocks that incorporate biomass with bioplastics to enable wider use of renewable resources and printing methods that can cope with the natural variation that comes with using sustainable and renewable resources.
Read about the next frontiers in 3D and 4D printing
Watch 3D printing of a bioplastic/paua shell plastic composite [YouTube]
National Science Challenge Science for Technological Innovation
Scion is leading the Materials, Manufacturing and Applications portfolio of the Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge.
Challenge members from Scion, Victoria University and ESR have worked together to create a 3D-printed version of the challenge’s logo. The icosahedron (20-sided object) was presented to the Minister of Science and Innovation at the all of SfTI Researchers’ Workshop held 10-11 July 2017.
Watch the development of the icosahedron (20-sided object)
Our 3D printers
- Fused deposition modelling printers
- A stereolithography/digital light processing (SLA/DLP printer) that uses photopolymers that solidify when exposed to light
- A paste printer
We use the components of natural polymers and apply green chemistry principles to synthesise new biochemicals.
Our work with lignin is a good example of this. Lignin is a complex biopolymer with the potential to directly substitute for petrochemicals. We are developing technologies such as biotransformation and hydrogenolysis to isolate lignin and break it down. Lignin can then be as is or as the starting material for synthesising new polymers and material. Applications for lignin at Scion include:
- Carbon nanofibres
- Polymer blends
- Industrial resins such as coatings and bioadhesives
Wood, bark and other biomass sources are rich sources of tannin, terpenes and other polyphenols, many of which have bioactivity. We are developing ways to extract these compounds using technology such as supercritical carbon dioxide extraction
Applications for biochemicals include providing protection against UV radiation, resins and bioadhesives. Read about the UV protective properties of tannin.
Our work with biochemicals is supported by our comprehensive chemical characterisation capability [pdf]
Stefan Hill, Porfolio Leader, Bio/Organic Chemistry