Dr Vijay Kumar Thakur, a young scientist from Himachal Pradesh and professor at Scotland Rural College (SRUC), has developed new sustainable bio-based materials from waste hemp that will enhance packaging sustainability.
For the first time, Prof Vijay and his collaborators from the UK and Europe have found that waste materials from wood and hemp biomass can be processed into sustainable foams for packaging, cushions and insulation.
Unlike foams sourced from petrochemicals, biomass-derived foams can significantly capture and sequester atmospheric CO2.
In addition, the bio-renewable and biodegradable foams promise both high performance and sustainability.
The research team has used an economic process of micro-fluidic processing and freeze-drying to create nano-cellulose (NC) foams from wood and hemp fibres.
They found that while both types of NC foams showed a great mechanical response, porosity, thermal conductivity, and thermal degradation, those made from hemp demonstrated higher performance characteristics.
While other bio-based products have yet to be commercialized at scale due to high cost and low quality, this research has the potential to change the synthetic foam industry through the commercialisation of high-performance biodegradable materials.
This will create new jobs and address the key issue of synthetic polymers and plastics polluting the planet at the same time.
Vijay Kumar Thakur said our society was comprehensively dependent on the use of plastics that were derived from petroleum feedstocks.
“Because of growing environmental concerns contiguous to plastic waste pollution and recycling problems, it is becoming imperative to look for nature-based resources wherever possible.
Indeed, pollution and climate change have become some of the most prominent and impactful threats that we will have to face in our lifetime.
What we manufacture, buy and consume will affect many generations after us,” he added.
Thakur stated that with the current challenges we were facing in terms of material resources and pollution, there was an urgent need for more realistic ecological bio-based alternatives.
Vijay’s research activities span the disciplines of bio-refining, biomaterials, chemistry, composites, manufacturing, nanotechnology and polymers, and all aspects of advanced and sustainable materials.
He is currently working as a professor and founding head of Bio-refining and Advanced Materials Research centre at SRUC, premier agriculture and life science institute in the UK.
Vijay belongs to Hatwar in Ghumarwin tehsil of Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh.