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State of the Art Research Facility assists ‘Green’ industry

A £1M industrial facility, operated by the BioComposites Centre (Bangor University) on the Llangefni Industrial Estate at Mona, has been helping local companies test new eco-friendly alternatives to existing products. 

New equipment at the facility, purchased as part of a £20M BEACON project, has enabled Bangor University’s BioProducts and BioRefining Technology Transfer Centre at Mona to work with industry to produce new composite materials for the construction and packaging sectors. The centre also enables companies to work with Bangor University to scale up the extraction of high value chemicals from plants, using procedures developed at small scale in a conventional laboratory environment. These chemicals have a range of applications in the cosmetics, medical and nutraceuticals sectors.

The Technology Transfer Centre is part of the pan-Wales BEACON project, a partnership between Bangor, Aberystwyth and Swansea Universities, which assists local Welsh companies to finding new uses for plants and plant co-products. 

The Centre provides a valuable resource for industry. Companies working in a range of industries can have access to the latest research and development equipment. They can test and develop new products and processes without having to shut down their own manufacturing plants.

At a special viewing event at the plant, Mr Ieuan Wyn-Jones, Assembly Member for Ynys Môn said:

"I'm fully supportive of this project at Mona which provides much-needed research facilities for our manufacturing sector. Manufacturing will play a key role as the economy grows out of recession and the work done by BEACON and Bangor University in establishing this Centre which will provide opportunities for sustainable products to be available locally and ensure a welcome boost for the economy here in Anglesey and throughout the north of Wales.”

Professor John Hughes, Vice-Chancellor of Bangor University said: “We are so pleased to be able to work with our BEACON partners and with industry to harness the expertise within the University for the benefit of the green economy in Wales and beyond.”

Dr Adam Charlton of the Biocomposites Centre said “This facility is really working, we already have successful collaborative projects on the go with local companies and more are coming on board every week.

Case Studies

MDF Recovery Ltd - based on Anglesey

MDF Recovery Ltd has developed a novel process to recover wood fibres from waste MDF. Until now, landfill or burning were the only options for disposing of MDF. MDF Recovery offers a better ecological solution for MDF disposal, which generates a new raw material source for the wood/natural fibre industry that reduces demand on standing forests.

The recovered fibres can be re-integrated back into the MDF manufacturing process or for a variety of other industrial applications such as thermal insulation products, biomass fuels or wood plastic composites. The recovered fibre is of the same high quality as virgin wood fibre but far more sustainable.

BEACON at Aberystwyth and Bangor and the plant at Mona has helped MDF Recovery to characterise their recovered fibres. Assistance has also been provided with a series of practical trials to demonstrate the effectiveness of the fibres as feedstock for new products.

Craig Bartlett, Director of MDF Recovery said:

“Without the expertise at Bangor we would not have been able to take our exciting new technology so far in such a short time. We are making exciting plans for the future and are proud to be based on Anglesey and we’re delighted to be able to take advantage of Mona’s unique facilities.  We look forward to our continued collaboration with Bangor University in the years to come.”

EcoBond Cymru - Anglesey

Ecobond (Cymru) Ltd is a company focusing on the commercialisation of sustainable materials, technologies and methods used in the construction and energy sectors. It carries out a variety of functions from feasibility study and grant sourcing through to direct R & D and project management of third party led development projects. Currently the company is working with a number of clients including a developer of a sustainable roofing tile. The client has developed a low energy process (patent pending) for bonding secondary aggregates and mining wastes into a material that can be used for the roofing and cladding of buildings. The resulting tiles, similar in appearance of local slate offer a genuine lower cost, sustainable substitute to the natural slate tile alternative by minimising the use of new mineral resources and lowering embodied energy. Ecobond Cymru is working towards the commercialisation of this technology.

Ecobond Cymru are working closely with Bangor University to further improve both the technical performance of the tiles and their embodied carbon footprint. Through a systematic approach to product development and testing, Bangor University is assisting Ecobond Cymru to identify alternate sources of both sustainable secondary aggregates and bio based resin alternatives to the current resin system. This activity is being carried out as part of a Collaborative Industrial Research Project (CIRP) involving parties from all parts of the supply chain and has been awarded an A4B grant from the Welsh Government.

Bio based resins are made from renewable materials such as plant and vegetable matter. The use of such resins which have traditionally been manufactured from petroleum results in a much lower embodied carbon content and represents a better use of resources. One of the bio resins being tested has been manufactured using a process patented and developed by Bangor University . The roofing project slate being developed by Ecobond Cymru offers is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate this technology for commercial benefit.

EcoBond Cymru has set up a development facility on the same industrial estate as Bangor University at Mona in order to take advantage of the plant and its facilities for the eventual commercial demonstration of the roofing tile. Such clustering is a desirable impact for the BEACON project and emphasises the need for academic and industrial collaboration.

Geraint Williams from EcoBond Cymru said:

“The collaboration with Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities has been beneficial to our business in so many ways, their help and support has been key to our business strategy and the positioning of our business in this market.”

The recently published Science for Wales outlined three strategic priorities which are:  low-carbon energy and environment, advanced materials and manufacturing, life sciences energy and environment.  The BEACON project will be helping companies in all these sectors using the cross-cutting themes of: IP Exploitation and applied, industry focused research which is close to market.  The outcomes of the BEACON project will impact in all three of these strategy areas and will facilitate the capture of additional research grant funding through UK Research Council and European Union Strategic Programmes.  By firmly linking with regional companies BEACON is already helping to create new skilled, high technology jobs which will directly impact the Welsh economy.

BEACON gratefully acknowledges support from the Convergence European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh European Funding Office, part of the Welsh Government.

Publication date: 28 June 2012