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Fake Plastic Trees

Originally Published 02 May 2003

The Faraday Plastics Partnership is a DTI funded initiative run jointly by Warwick Manufacturing Group and Rapra Technology Ltd. The partnership uses the contacts and experience of Manufacturing Group staff to build relationships between the world of academic research and the polymer-using business community. The contacts can be as simple as telephone advice on a production problem, or as large as a three-year multidisciplinary research project.

One of the more unusual requests for help came from artist Peter Hill at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Peter is part of a team at the project working to produce an educational exhibit showing how industrial materials can be produced from crops. The Eden team wanted to make a model tree using polymer resins and reinforcements made from plant origin raw materials.

Fake Plastic Trees
Fake Plastic Trees
Dr Nick Tucker (Faraday Plastics Partnership technology translator), Mark Johnson, Kerry Kirwan and Ian Dargue of Warwick Manufacturing Group's Advanced Technology Centre are working with Dr Andrew Clark and Dr Leonard Mwaikambo of the Department of Chemistry on a number of projects related to biopolymers and sustainable composite. The Warwick academics were able to offer advice on suitable materials, and also, using facilities at Rapra Technology, produce 600m of extruded starch based polymer for the Eden artists to use as plant stalks in their display. The resin used to make the tree is based on a by-product of the cashew nut industry, and Dr Mwaikambo is playing a significant role in popularising this material as a sustainable polymer resin.

The Warwick team expects these low environmental impact polymers to become increasingly popular because they do not use finite oil reserves as a feedstock, and at the end of product life can be usually be composted, to complete a minimum environmental impact lifecycle.

See Faraday Plastics Partnership

Related web pages:

Warwick and the Environment -