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News Archive 2015

December 2015

£12m EU backed bio-refining research and innovation project gets the ‘green’ light

A new £12 million investment in Wales’ ‘green’ economy has been announced by Welsh Government Finance and Government Business Minister, Jane Hutt. Backed by £8 million of EU funds, the BEACON+ project will see scientists from Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities continue to work with industry to develop renewable materials, fuels and chemicals.

The funding will enable specialists in bio-refining to develop research and product innovation with 100 small and medium sized businesses in North, West Wales and the South Wales valleys. Bio-refining is the scientific process of transforming plants into valuable chemicals and commercial products such as cosmetics, fuels, pharmaceuticals, textiles and health products. The project aims to create over 100 new products or processes in partnership with businesses over the next four years.

The new investment allows the participating Universities to build on the success of the first BEACON project, which created closer links between Welsh academia and industry in the area of low-carbon technology, and won the EU’s prestigious RegioStars award for its contribution to sustainable growth.

"Bangor University role in this project is to helping companies develop new products", explained Rob Elias, Beacon Lead at Bangor University’s BioComposites Centre. "Using our pilot scale facilities we can show case new technologies and help companies develop prototype products. This capability really helps to speed up the exploitation and commercialisation of new ideas in the bioeconomy.”

Finance Minister said: “This £8 million EU investment in the BEACON+ project is excellent news which will allow businesses in Wales to benefit from advanced scientific research to develop new products, create jobs and grow Wales’ low-carbon economy.”

Over £420 million of EU funds have been invested in Wales since the new programmes were agreed by the European Commission in November last year. EU funds are being invested to boost Welsh business, raise skills and create job opportunities, exploit Wales’ potential in marine renewable energy, and take forward research and innovation projects.

Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, added: “I’m very pleased that we’ve hit the ground running with the delivery of the new EU funding programmes, and it’s clear that people, businesses and communities are already feeling the benefits of substantial EU funds invested in Wales this year.”

Director of BEACON at Aberystwyth University, Professor Iain Donnison, said: “BEACON is driven by the challenging targets for the adoption of green technologies and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that have been set by national governments and the European Union. Low carbon technologies including bio-refining and industrial biotechnology are seen as important growth sectors and will need sustainable supply chains that will generate economic activity and jobs, and it is these that provide the focus for the work being done in and for Wales at BEACON.”

Professor Julie Williams, Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, said: “EU programmes are playing an important role in supporting research and innovation, and helping to create scientific breakthroughs here in Wales.This is an excellent project that will build on the world-class research already taking place at Welsh universities, and create long-term benefits, both economically and environmentally.”

COST action meeting and 60th LCA Discussion Forum

Campbell Skinner travelled to Zurich this week to attend two pan-European LCA-based discussions forums. The joint COST action FP1407 and FP1303 meeting was held at ETH Zurich with presentations and discussion around the theme of LCA of wood modification. Campbell gave a presentation on the energy monitoring capability at BC’s pilot-scale processing facility on Anglesey and its role in lifecycle analyses. The following day saw the 60th LCA discussion forum, also at ETH Zurich, at which some of the leading LCA scientists and practitioners gathered to discuss the latest developments in LCA methodology and the environmental use of wood resources.

October 2015

BC Post Doc Awarded Scientific Exchange Funding

Luis Martin, from The CO2 Lab, BC, Bangor University was recently awarded £500 to fund a short scientific exchange with the Università degli Studi di Salerno in Italy to study the counter current fractionation of glycolipids.

The award, funded by BioProNET, is presented to early career scientific researchers who have spent less than 10 years in active postgraduate research.

Luis has just returned from the exchange visit. He spent three weeks learning about the techniques of supercritical counter current fractionation and studying the possibility of moving from a batch process to a continuous one using a counter current supercritical column.

‘I was delighted to be awarded the Scientific exchange funding,’ said Luis, ‘I was able to experience work in another lab and see the potential applications of the equipment that I was able to use. Maybe in the future this technique can be imported to the CO2 Lab to complete the versatility of our Laboratories.’

Details of the award here ( webpage).

A short report about Luis’s visit is available here.

September 2015

FEMS Euromat Conference 2015

The Federation of European Materials Societies (FEMS) held its annual conference in Warsaw, Poland, 20th -25th September. The conference covers the whole range of materials from metals and ceramics to natural materials.  Over 1200 delegates were at the event. Our PhD student Mr Elie Mansour presented his work on the absorption of formaldehyde and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) by wool and natural fibres. This study, funded by the EU framework seven ECOSEE project, shows that different types of natural fibres have a varying capacity to absorb VOCs and may also be good substrates for modification to enhance this absorptive capability. The ultimate aim is for these fibres to be used in products to help improve indoor air quality by reducing internal airborne volatile contaminants. The presentation was well received and elicited some discussion.

In the same track, Mr Keith Spilsbury from WoolCool gave an interesting presentation on his companies new wool based packaging products. During his presentation, Mr Spilsbury acknowledged and thanked BC for their contribution to the research, which helped in understanding and developing the materials.

ESBP 2015
Viacheslav Tverezovskiy presented at the 8th European Symposium on Biopolymers (ESBP 2015) 16th – 18th September 2015. Since the first ESBP in 2001, the interest in biopolymers production and application has significantly increased worldwide, with the production of bio-based polymers expected to reach 12 Mton in 2020. This year the Symposium was held at the University of Rome and it attracted 150 participants from 21 countries. Viacheslav’s talk focussed on the production of biobased polymers, such as poly(butylene succinate) (PBS) and its copolymers, derived from lignocellulosic sugar wastes from the paper industry. The ongoing research work is a part of the BRIGIT project, funded by the EU FP7 programme. The extent of PBS application is still growing and in BRIGIT the consortium is developing biopolymers for highly demanding fire-resistant applications in automotive industry (trucks, buses). This leading research work, which was the only presentation dedicated to the field of PBS, attracted a considerable interest.

August 2015


Antoine Stéphan, from the School of Wood Science and Timber Engineering (ENSTIB), Epinal, France, has been an intern, with the materials research group, for 8 weeks this summer. During his internship, he learnt many chemical and analytical techniques and their applications to wood and natural products.

Antoine’s work at BC involved sample preparation and setting up analytical experiments to assess indoor air quality. Different materials were investigated for their ability to absorb volatile organic compounds. He also carried out formaldehyde emissions testing, which included wet chemistry. His work gave him experience using a range of different types of equipment and methods, such as micro-chamber, thermal desorption, gas chromatography, and higher performance liquid chromatography. He also gained experience in mycology and the effects of different wood treatments on their physical behaviour under different relative humidifies.

Antoine was previously an intern at a wood construction firm working on surveying, site supervision, pressing and treatments of wood and helping in construction. He is currently working on his engineering degree in wood science, and would like to expand into the fields of wood chemistry and mycology. Antoine enjoyed working at BC. We wish him well on his return home.

June 2015


The BioComposites Centre hosted a 3 day training school, 8th-10th June at Bangor University, on the evaluation of mould risk in buildings and on materials. The event was part of COST action FP 1303 ‘performance of bio-based building materials’. Scientists from BC and SENRGy were joined by experts from the Norwegian institutes of Mycoteam and Skog landskap to deliver an introduction to the evaluation of mould and decay of bio based construction materials.

16 students from 13 European countries spent three days learning how to assess mould growth both in a laboratory and within a case study building. The training school started with an introduction to mould fungi followed by a trip to a case study building to practice methods of sampling and isolation of moulds from buildings. During the next two days the students learnt how to culture and identify the moulds that they had sampled from the building. Other subjects covered included the effects of moulds on human health and the current standards available for standardised testing. The students enjoyed the hands on approach of the course and left with a better understanding of mould fungi and the of the need for testing of both current products and perhaps more importantly future bio-based products.

May 2015


Rob Elias gave a presentation on ‘Challenges of biocomposites in the construction sector’ at the BioComposites in Construction International Conference 21st-22nd May at the Society of Chemical Industry in London. The conference brought together academics and industry from across Europe to report and discuss on the latest developments on topics incorporating the entire biocomposite material value chain – from raw material to finished products, from science to commercial realisation.  The event was supported by the EU project INNOBITE.

April 2015


BRIGIT aims to develop a cost-competitive and environmentally friendly continuous process to produce biopolymers (polyhydroxybutyrate, PHB, and succinate-based biopolyesters, PBS-Poly-Butylene-Succinate) from waste-derived lignocelullosic sugar feedstock liquor of wood sulphite pulping process based on “in-situ” fermentation process and new fermentation culture technology. A consortium including BC and 15 partners cover the entire value chain from feedstock, biosynthesis of the polymer or polymer precursor, through the optimization of product recovery, purification and further conversion towards the final product. You can read the latest newsletter for a project update.


The CO2 lab welcomed Giovanni Salvatore and Camilla Milano, two Erasmus+ research students, from the University of Salerno, Italy. Erasmus+ provides opportunities for over 4 million Europeans to study, train, gain work experience and volunteer abroad. Over the next three months Giovanni and Camilla will carry out projects on selective extraction of sugars and biocatalysis in scCO2.


Thanasis Dimitriou presented at the final meeting of COST Action FP1006 'Advances in modified and functional surfaces' conference at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, 7-9 April 2015. The paper 'Wood Plastic Composites: surface modification with heat to improve the adhesion ability' detailed work carried out at BC to understand how heat can affect the surface properties of WPC. Lap joint shear tests (EN 205) were used to evaluate changes in adhesion ability. The work aimed to determine if heat could improve bonding within the composite between the wood and the plastic and also affect the surface characteristics to enhance the product performance, for example, to create a better bonding with coatings.

March 2015


Work at the BioComposites Centre was featured on BBC Radio Wales Science Cafe on Tuesday 10th March in a 30 minute programme dedicated to Bangor University's Hidden Worlds Exhibition. Becky Snell showed Adam Walton, presenter of the Science Cafe, a range of biobased packaging materials that have been developed at BC. These included straw-based pizza discs, biobased plastics made from bread waste, and food trays, egg boxes and fruit punnets made from grass. BC are currently working on a method to produce multilayered flexible food films which could be used in the snack industry. The issues of packaging waste such as types which can and cannot be recycled, sustainable biobased biodegradable materials and changes in consumer demand were discussed. Listen again (available until 10/4/15).

The Hidden Worlds Exhibition is part of British Science Week and scientist from different departments in Bangor University take the opportunity to display their work to the public. The BioComposites Centre will have an interactive display of plastic packaging waste. Children will learn how to separate waste plastic ready for recycling and receive a CIWM young recycler's certificate.


The BioComposites Centre has just been awarded a 2 year project with a total value of £593K. The project is funded through Innovate UK and aims to develop a novel biotech approach to produce a range of products based on straw. The project is in partnership with the Beijing Forestry University with industrial partners in the UK and China.

BioComposites Centre Director, Dr Rob Elias explains “The EPSRC funding allows us to re-establish a link with a former member of staff, Prof Runcang Sun. Prof Sun is now Dean of College of Materials Science and Technology at Beijing Forestry University and we are really pleased to be working with him again".
Prof Sun’s work in Bangor in 1995 helped establish a new line, which will be used to fractionate straw into valuable chemicals and fibres for applications in packaging and composites.

The Centre sees this link to China as important for future development. It will lead to student exchanges and other complimentary funding opportunities for technology exchange. Dr Adam Charlton, Head of BioRefining has already visited China on a Trade Mission organised by Welsh Government. In December 2014 Adam met with Chinese officials and had a tour Prof Sun’s laboratories (see more).

"This prestigious project will help consolidate the link with Prof. Sun’s group and highlights an excellent example of collaboration between Centres of Excellence in China and the UK. The project will showcase some of the upscaling technologies available within the BioComposites Centre and purchased through support from the Welsh European Funding Office and demonstrates the use of this type of funding for capacity building within Welsh HEIs", commented Dr. Charlton.

February 2015


Princess Anne was shown a range of sustainable packaging products made from ryegrass which were the successful result of the A4B STARS project.

The Princess Royal visited Bangor Univerity's Henfaes Research Station at Abergwyngregyn on Friday 30th March. Rob Elias, director of BC, and Karen Graley, manager of Packaging and Reprographics Waitrose Brand Development and Innovation, were there to exhibit the work that we have been doing at BC on sustainable packaging. Princess Anne showed a good deal of interest and knowledge and asked about the impact on land and Food Security and the product Life Cycle Analysis.


We are recruiting a materials scientist to work on the development of new and novel materials from bio-based resources through the use of biomimicry and architectural principles. The researcher will work on a new project “Plants & Architecture” which is part of the Wales National Research Network for Low Carbon Energy and the Environment (NRN-LCEE). Plant scientists at Aberystwyth University, materials scientists at Bangor University and architects at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University are working together to understand how buildings and plants interact with each other and their environment, so that we can develop the cities and crops of tomorrow. Candidates should be educated to PhD standard (or equivalent) and have previous experience in materials development and an understanding of biomimicry and how this will play a role in the development of new systems for a better urban environmental. Closing date 20/3/15. Further details...


Graham Ormondroyd, Head of BC’s Materials group, joined Einir Young, Bangor University’s Director of Sustainability, to visit Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda (MUK) who signed a five-year collaboration deal.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Bangor and MUK will work as a platform for collaboration under the recently commissioned EC programmes Joint European-African Research and Innovation Agenda on Waste Management, to boost collaborative research and innovation.

The collaboration will provide technical assistance to Makerere University’s implementation of resource efficiency and the wider` network of the Innovations Systems `Cluster Programme, (part of the East African and Continental Pan African Competitiveness Forums). Makerere University also plans to work with Bangor University to embed sustainability in all its work, through teaching, research and developing practical solutions for businesses in Uganda.

BC will provide expertise in the field of biobased materials advising on process development to utilize resources such as waste from agriculture. The team visited a pineapple farm and discussed ways of using the fibrous material which remains after processing. BC has 25 years of experience working in biobased materials research, much of this work has involved collaborating with industry and local businesses. BC is therefore, well placed to offer practical advice on how to incorporate applied research programmes to provide solutions both economically and environmentally to businesses. Recent projects such as the WISE network and BEACON are excellent examples of collaboration between universities and industry could provide essential experience to the cluster programme in Uganda.


Rob Elias gave a presentation on ‘Use of Natural Fibres in Construction and Packaging Applications’ on 3rd February 2015 at the Coir Kerala Fair in Alappuzha, Kerala, India.

In the talk Rob covered the UK/European prospective of the application of natural fibres in construction and packaging applications in the context of a biorefinery concept. The application of different sources of natural fibres including wood, agricultural co-products and recycled fibres was then presented and this included in a range of products in the construction and packaging industries such as composites, insulation materials and pulp moulded trays. Case studies were then used to highlight the issues and barriers to scale up of natural fibre technologies

Coir Kerala Fair is an annual National and International Seminar now in its 5th year. It has become a major coir and natural fibre products event amongst domestic manufacturers and overseas buyers. The event is coordinated by The National Coir Research & Management Institute (NCRMI) and provides great opportunities for business, trading, joint ventures, strengthening of existing markets, establishing new markets, and technology transfer.


BC has just purchased a Dionex ASE 350 Accelerated Solvent Extractor system equipped with 22ml and 66ml extraction cells. It can be used to extract solid and semi-solid sample matrices using common solvents. Operating at high temperature and pressure the kinetics of the extraction process are enhanced resulting in extraction efficiencies similar to a Soxhlet extractor, but in less time and using less solvent. Accelerated solvent extraction can be used for the extraction of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), base/neutral/acid (BNA) compounds, organophosphorus pesticides (OPPs) and herbicides.
Examples of the equipment application include: determining perchlorate levels in food and soil samples; PAH compounds from environmental materials including soils, sludge, and other solid wastes; extraction of phenolic acids from plant tissue; extraction of pesticide residues in food products.

The equipment is available for commercial use. If your company would like to test samples using this equipment please do not hesitate to contact us at

January 2015


Bronia Stefanowski has been granted the Ron Cockcroft Award (RCA) from the International Research Group on Wood Protection (IRG/WP). This award provides assistance towards travel and accommodation costs enabling Bronia to attend and present her work at the 46th IRG annual conference in Viña del Mar, Chile, in May.

The RCA is a merit-based programme to promote international awareness of developments in research in wood protection. The RCA is intended primarily to assist post-graduate research students and active younger scientists.

Bronia will be presenting a paper on “Developing a rapid screening method for construction materials and insulations’ susceptibility to mould growth”. Moulds are a common problem found within homes and cause aesthetic damage, health problems and can increase material vulnerability to degradation fungi. This paper addresses the need for a quick screening method for novel construction materials, which may not have the necessary information to fulfil current mathematical models.

Bronia’s PhD is funded through the Framework 7 project ‘ECO-SEE’ a project that studies the use of innovative eco-building materials that will address poor air quality, while also radically improving the energy efficiency of buildings (


The start of 2015 has seen two members of BC Materials Research group, Drs Morwenna Spear and Simon Curling accepted to the highest grade of membership to the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

IOM3 is a major UK engineering institution whose activities encompass the whole materials cycle, from exploration and extraction, through characterisation, processing, forming, finishing and application, to product recycling and land reuse. It exists to promote and develop all aspects of materials science and engineering, geology, mining and associated technologies, mineral and petroleum engineering and extraction metallurgy, as a leading authority in the worldwide materials and mining community.

Both Dr Spear and Dr Curling have elected to join the Wood Technology Society, a division of IOM3, with the purpose of advancing and encouraging the scientific, technical, practical and general knowledge of timber and wood based materials. Andrew True, Chair of the WTS commented ‘It is fantastic to see that the UK can still produce wood and natural materials scientists at a level deserving of a Fellowship of the Institute, I look forward to supporting and working with Morwenna and Simon along with the other Fellows to see the timber industry grow in the U.K.’.

Dr. Ormondroyd, Head of the Materials Research Group commented, ‘The materials research group has a very broad remit in the research that they undertake and both Morwenna and Simon have shown the ability to adapt their research across this broad remit whilst retaining a knowledge and reputation in their respected specialisms worthy of a fellowship’


We recently worked with WoolCool in their research to develop innovative, sustainable, passive insulated packaging that allows extended controlled temperature management for food and pharmaceutical distribution.
The company set out to replace polystyrene and polyethylene with an environmentally friendly packaging which would maintain the temperature of food under 5°C for 24 hours whilst in transit. They found that the using sheep's wool provided them with the ideal natural material to perform this function. Wool packaging keeps products cooler for longer than polystyrene and polyethylene. The company now have commercial success and have sold more than 3.5M packaging liners made from wool.

More recently, the company have produced WoolCool Pharmapack which maintains temperatures of between 2-8°C for 72 hours. Temperature control is vital during the transportation of medicines and vaccines so this packaging is extremely important and beneficial for global health. Read full article