Macro shot of new material

A protective shell: An exciting new material that protects homes and the environment

An innovative new material, made from mussel shells, that protects homes is one step closer to being available on the market, thanks to collaboration between sustainable product company Pennotec (Pennog Ltd) and material research scientists at Bangor University’s BioComposites Centre, supported by Innovate UK.

Steven Gallacher, Operations Manager at Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group, with whom the team are working, explains “Mussel farming is one of the most sustainable methods of food production, but not all mussels meet the high quality standards expected by consumers. This potential new outlet for out-graded mussels will help to further improve the sustainability of our industry.”

Pennotec co-inventor, Dr Noel Roberts, an early career researcher and ION Leadership graduate from Bangor University, explains, “Conventional biocidal surface sprays that prevent growth of moss and slime last three years at most. This is expensive for homeowners and bad for the environment. Accelerated weathering tests at Bangor University predict that our product will prevent surface growth for up to 15 years, saving homeowners thousands of pounds and reducing the risk of roof damage from repeated cleaning.”

With such strong environmental credentials built into the material, Noel was also keen to ensure that his product provided a truly circular solution: “My invention replaces hazardous cleaning chemicals. Despite this, I knew that at the end of its useful life, my product could end up in landfill, and I wasn’t happy about that.”

This led Noel to apply for DEFRA and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) advice and support. UKRI’s Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre for Mineral-based Construction Materials (ICEC-MCM) - one of five research centres under the £30million National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research (NICER) programme - is now supporting a new, collaborative project to investigate the recycling of used mussel composite back into fresh product.

Noel, and his team at Pennotec, are collaborating with Dr Simon Curling, an expert in the life cycle and durability of building materials at Bangor University’s Biocomposites Centre. Simon said, “Using our capability to simulate years of weathering in the space of a few weeks, we are helping Noel to test and validate the performance and durability of his recycled material.

Demonstrating that this kind of recycling is possible is only half the challenge in a construction industry that is notoriously linear in its use of materials. Construction generates more than a third of all waste hitting landfill sites.

“For a Circular Economy approach to work in practice, new thinking is required on how building material manufacturers finance and manage the recovery and re-processing of products. By working with Circular Economy business and finance experts at ICEC-MCM, I hope to understand how the construction industry, financiers, housing associations and homeowners can be motivated to support the recycling of building materials at the end of their useful life.”

Dr Noel Roberts,  Co-inventor (Pennotec) and ION Leadership programme graduate, Bangor University

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