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The Opportunities for Utilising Natural Polymers within Construction Materials

  • Supervisor:  Fiona Bradley (University of Strathclyde)
  • Sponsoring Company: Marine BioPolymers Ltd
  • PhD Student: Cassandra Dove

The ambition of this PhD project is to develop composite materials for building applications using natural polymers obtained from indigenous species of macro-algae. Seaweed is a renewable and abundant resource which in recent decades has become under-utilised in Scotland. However, new energy-efficient harvesting techniques developed by the project’s industrial partner, Marine Bio-polymers, will soon reintroduce sustainable seaweed processing to the local area, including the production of alginate - the main structural polysaccharide of brown seaweeds. This biopolymer is highly versatile and can be used in various industrial applications but its use within construction materials is still an emerging concept.

 

This project focusses specifically on the development of biopolymer/inorganic hybrids where the alginate is utilised in clay-based systems such as unfired masonry units, mortars and plasters as well as polymer/clay aerogels. These particular materials offer opportunities to enhance the thermal performance of the building envelope whilst also incorporating natural, locally sourced constituents. To date the study has involved close collaboration with Marine Bio-polymers during their pilot plant development in order to establish the most appropriate products for use in the desired applications. At present small-scale prototype materials (bricks and aerogels) are being manufactured and characterised in order to assess their feasibility as commercial products.