A collaborative innovation project involving the University of Nottingham, which aims to create a portable facility that can convert waste into chemicals to be used to build medical devices, has been awarded €1.5 million as part of an international competition.
The SPRIND Challenge ‘Circular Biomanufacturing’ is a three-year competition hosted by Germany’s Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation. More than 50 groups applied from across the world, with eight selected for the first stage to develop novel bioprocessing techniques that will contribute to a circular economy. The MATERI-8 project will use bacteria to ‘eat’ waste and convert it into acrylic molecules that can then be mixed with other monomers to create polymers for use in additive manufacturing to create medical devices. The team plans to build a bespoke containerised system to enable local utilisation of the technology, meaning countries that suffer from a continuous stream of waste can benefit too.
Assistant Professor Sam Bryan, from the University of Nottingham’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, said: “Securing funding as part of the SPRIND challenge is an incredibly exciting step for this project, as it’s giving us the opportunity to turn our research into reality. and make a real difference to countries swamped with waste but without the facilities to deal with it.
“This next 12 months will be vital, as we focus on proving the process can work. From there we’d look to progress to the next stage of the competition where we’d receive more funding to develop a continuous biomanufacturing system with the ability to make products via additive manufacturing printing techniques. We’ve got a great team that’s committed to turning waste into something useful, rather than leaving it to pollute the planet, so to have been recognised and selected for that is something we’re incredibly proud of.”
During the project’s first stage, the group will focus on getting the bacteria to ‘chew up’ material mixtures coming from different types of textiles, greenhouse cultivation by-products, such as contaminated paprika stems, and microplastics, identifying the optimum process for creating a platform chemical.
Alongside Professor Bryan, the team includes Professor Derek Irvine, Dr Anca Pordea and Dr Luisa Ciano (University of Nottingham), Dr Patricia Parlevliet (Green Pearl Innovation), and Professor Wolfgang Streit (Universität Hamburg).
Pictured, left to right, are: Professor Derek Irvine, Dr Anca Pordea, Dr Samantha Bryan, and Dr Luisa Ciano.