1. Alternative sources for vegetable oil-based resins:
Although the area of biobased resins derived from epoxidised oil has been extensively investigated, the industry still struggle to fully implement a new biobased platform due to the final price of vegetable-oil based products that still uncompetitive in comparison to the current petroleum based products. Moreover, the use of edible oil for the engineering of material rise discussions about the ethical use of land, its competition versus the use as feedstock and how it can negatively affect the price of consumer staple markets. In this regard, waste vegetable oils emerge as an alternative yet underexplored source of triglycerides that can potentially satisfy the need for low cost materials that does not compete as feedstock.
In my research, different methodologies for the purification and chemical functionalisation of waste vegetable oil has been explored to enable the production of competitive polymeric materials from waste.
2. Natural fibre reinforced composites and "Green composites":
Vegetable fibres are considered a cheap and abundant raw materials since they can be obtained from various sources such as flax, hemp, jute, sisal, eucalyptus and curaua, each region in the world is better supplied by a fibre type. Comparison of the mechanical properties of several vegetable fibres with traditional reinforcing fibres such as glass, carbon and aramid demonstrated an advantageous balance between mechanical properties and their densities in favour for the use of vegetal fibres due to its reduced density as shown by Bledzki et al. Life-cycle assessment (LCA) studies reported that the production of vegetable fibres, when compared with the cycle of production of glass fibres, presents a noticeable decrease in several environmental indicators such as emission of toxic gases associated greenhouse (CO2, CO, NOX and SO2), involving in some cases 30 times lower consumption of energy. Moreover, the environmental benefits are accompanied by other positive points related to the low cost and favourable mechanical properties, making this kind of competitive compound for engineering applications.
Even though the reinforcement with vegetable fibres presents an environmentally-friendly alternative, mostly of the polymeric matrixes industrially applicable still derived from petroleum and are not biodegradable, which increases the "environmental impact" of associated with these materials. In this respect, significant efforts have been deposited to promote the development of polymers from biomass for the development of a fully bioderived manufacturing platform to address ecologically-benign alternatives.