Scientists redesigning materials for circular economy

Monday, 19 August, 2019

Scientists redesigning materials for circular economy

Materials scientists from Deakin University are working on several projects to help solve the global waste and recycling crisis. The projects, undertaken by a team from the university’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM), explore a material’s life from first to final use, which the researchers say is essential to redesigning materials for a circular economy.

IFM’s Circular Economy Strategy Lead Catherine McMahon said Deakin’s scientists are world leaders in their approach to materials design with their ‘design out waste’ ethos.

“We’re in this recycling crisis because our current generation of materials aren’t designed to be recycled or repurposed,” McMahon said.

“We are a global leader in materials science because at IFM we’re redesigning materials with waste eradication in mind. This is key to a circular economy approach.”

McMahon said that when IFM scientists are creating a product for its initial purpose, they already know what it will be in its next life, too.

“This process involves the careful consideration of a material’s next life. It’s about ensuring that materials are always totally recycled without any environmental harm or waste, whilst maintaining their highest possible value during that repurposing process,” she said.

“While many materials, like a poly-cotton blend, can be partially recycled, the process leads to waste and devalues the material. At IFM, our scientists are designing materials that are made to separate so that all of the materials are easily re-used or biodegrade. This maintains the highest possible value of the material.”

McMahon said IFM researchers are also examining ways to maximise value from waste. “Some of the ways our world-leading scientists are doing this is by looking at turning end-of-life textiles into bone repair systems, used silk material into artificial blood vessels, textile fibres into vaccines and usually discarded textile waste into leather interior alternatives for cars,“ she said.

Biowaste is another material that Deakin scientists are working to repurpose as part of the circular approach. During the sugarcane milling process, almost 20% ends up as biowaste that’s often disposed of by burning.

“We have researchers working on how waste from sugarcane production can be turned into capsules for medicine delivery. We must be smarter with the waste that comes from basic production, too. All waste, and its potential use, must be considered if we’re to be truly circular,” McMahon said.

McMahon will make the opening address at a regional conference in Geelong on 26 August, hosted by IFM. The event aims to raise awareness of the key principles of a circular economy and examine state and national approaches to circular design.

What: Regional Innovation for a Circular Economy (RICE) conference hosted by Deakin’s IFM. Deakin’s material scientists will be joined by key regional, state and national stakeholders in the recycling and waste management industry.

Where: Deakin Waurn Ponds Campus

When: Monday 26 August, 9.15 am to 5 pm

Web: Click here.

Image credit: © WU

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