As part of European project Barbara, UA researchers have extracted innovative natural substances with antimicrobial effect, fragrance release, and new colours and optical effects.
Researchers at the University of Alicante, in collaboration with a dozen European partners, have developed natural compounds of high added value for the automotive industry or construction. The final product has been extracted from agricultural waste of lemon, pomegranate, broccoli and almond shells, sustainable and innovative substances with advanced properties such as antimicrobial effect, fragrance releasing, and new colours and optical effects.
According to PhD in Chemical Sciences and coordinator of the UA work team M. Carmen Garrigós, these substances present a revolution for sectors such as car rental as they can be implemented in parts exposed to contamination by microbes such as handles and dashboards. In addition, from a circular economy approach, more sustainable pieces have been designed as a contribution to reducing the large amounts of agricultural waste that are generated every day.
The residues selected by the researchers for the development of these extracts have been defined by their natural properties. The colourants of lemon, broccoli and pomegranate have allowed them to obtain ranges of colours different from synthetic colours. In fact, as explained by Garrigós, a wide range of shades can be obtained by modifying the pH of a pomegranate. The essential oil of lemons provides antimicrobial properties and releases a scent, an interesting feature to some industries. Also, almond shell provides a wood-like appearance and natural reinforcement properties, i.e. it improves the mechanical properties of the material.
The researcher also reported that on a laboratory scale, once the natural compounds have been extracted from the remains of lemons, pomegranates, broccoli and almonds, they are added to filament spools for the 3D printing of door handles and dashboards with improved characteristics and specific aesthetic properties.
The method of extraction and functionalisation of natural substances has been developed by the Polymer and Nanomaterial Analysis Research Group (Nanobiopol) and the UA Vision and Colour Group in the context of the European project Barbara. Other project partners have worked with starch residues from maize to obtain more resistant and reinforced building materials.
The University of Alicante team is also responsible for the dissemination and circulation of the different phases of the project that started in 2017 and will end in April 2020.
The Barbara project, already in its final phase of verification and validation of the parts obtained, has a large team of ten partners from Spain, Italy, Sweden and Belgium covering all the sectors related to the project. Coordinated by the Aitiip Technology Centre and monitored by the Italian University of Perugia, this European consortium is contributed with Fecoam and Cargill as suppliers of food waste; Celabor, KTH and the University of Alicante are responsible for the chemical processes of extraction of functional molecules and polysaccharides; Nurel and Tecnopackaging for the development of coils for printers; Aitiip for 3D printing and prototype manufacturing, and finally, FIAT and Acciona as end users and responsible for the validation of parts.
With a budget of 2.7 million euros, Barbara is part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.