Microbeads are little spheres of plastic less than 0.5 mm in size that are added to personal care and cleaning products including toothpaste, cosmetics, shower gel, sunscreens and fillers. Too small to be removed by sewage filtration systems, these ecologically damaging plastic contaminants end up in rivers and oceans, where they are ingested by birds, fish and other marine life.
It is estimated that a single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean, contributing to the eight million tonnes of plastic that enters the ocean every year. It is feared that the particles may also be entering the food chain, harming wildlife but also potentially ending up in our food.
As a result of recent campaigning by environmental groups, countries around the world are taking action against microplastics. Britain has pledged to ban the products containing plastic microbeads by the end of 2017 and France and Sweden have made similar pledges to come into force in early 2018.
Now a research team, from the University of Bath’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT), has developed a way of producing a biodegradable renewable alternative to plastic microbeads in a scalable, continuous microencapsulaton process.
The new more eco-friendly beads are made from cellulose, which is the material that forms the fibres found in wood and plants. Bath’s scientists have developed a process to dissolve the cellulose to reform it into tiny beads by forming droplets that are then “set”. These microbeads are robust enough to remain stable in a bodywash, but can be broken down by organisms at the sewage treatment works, or even in the environment in a short period of time.
The researchers anticipate they could use cellulose from a range of “waste” sources, including from the paper making industry as a renewable source of raw material.
Dave Palmer, Micropore’s Business Development Manager says: "Building on the process developed at Bath, Micropore’s patented continuous encapsulation technology will allow the particle size and particle size distribution to be tailored, at industrial meaningful flow rates. So instead of the millilitres per hour achieved in the laboratory we're talking about the litres per hour that will be required by product manufacturers."
Bath University article
James Coombs OBrien, Laura Torrente-Murciano, David Mattia and Janet L Scott’s published paper
For more information on industrial scale micro-encapsulation contact: Dave Palmer at Micropore Technology
Overall Micropore are encouraged by the interest being shown generally by Indian businesses in their unique technology. “We’ll be enthusiastically following up all of the contacts made during this trip and are eagerly looking forward to participating in a reciprocal trade visit being planned for June 2017, where we will get the chance to renew relationships with some of the contacts made and develop our relationships further” says Dai Hayward.
This month Dave Palmer, Micropore’s Business Development Manager was interviewed by Niamh Michail of FoodNavigator.com about the benefits possible using Micropore’s patented emulsion technology to reduce fat content in foods.
Read the full article: http://www.foodnavigator.com/Market-Trends/Water-emulsions-can-achieve-up-to-20-fat-reduction
Micropore Technologies was delighted to be exhibiting at Crops and Chemicals Europe in Berlin during February. The event was a well-attended, with representatives from a diverse range of companies. Visitors to the Micropore stand showed interest in the company's technologies for both improving stability of emulsion concentrates and high-tech delivery systems using micro-encapsulation.
“As Agro-Chemicals are generally high volume applications, the new Micropore LTS-1/PTS systems stand us in good stead for meeting those demanding volume requirements. We’re happy to run small scale feasibility studies to help our clients demonstrate the quality improvements membrane emulsification can bring”, commented Micropore’s Business Development Manager, Dave Palmer.
“The conference was such a success we have already signed up for next year and look forward to seeing you there!”
Micropore Technologies Ltd is expanding with the help of a £110,000 investment from UK Steel Enterprise, the Tata Steel business-support subsidiary, and £100,000 from the North East Angel Fund managed by Rivers Capital Partners.
Micropore’s patented membrane emulsification and encapsulation process is in growing demand across the pharmaceutical, food, agro-chemicals, aerospace and research sectors. Since spinning out from Loughborough University’s formulation research group in 2003, the partnership remains strong with the knowledge flow benefitting Micropore and its client base and enhancing research impact.
After working with a wide range of industries on trials and feasibility studies, Micropore has successfully scaled up its process to industrial production level and is growing both its team and customer base. At a significant stage in its development, the company re-located from the East Midlands to the Wilton Centre in Redcar, choosing Teesside for the strength of the formulation knowledge base and supply chain, employable skill base, calibre of investors and quality of premises.
Micropore’s process uses a sieve-type membrane to engineer droplets and particles to a uniform size using a process known as membrane emulsification. The company’s expertise, patented equipment and services are sought by manufacturers of foods, medicines, cosmetics and even rocket fuel looking to innovate and produce a high quality, cost-effective product with reduced material wastage.
“We have strong working relationships with a portfolio of exciting and exacting clients and work confidentially with them on their novel, leading-edge formulation developments across a wide range of market sectors,” said Chief Executive Dai Hayward. “We are leading the field in a market with huge potential and expect to more than double our five-strong team of highly skilled scientists and engineers.
“The UK market alone has room for considerable growth but we also have a sales office in the USA that accounts for 20 to 25% of the company’s business. A recent trade mission to India has led to some new and exciting growth opportunities and we are looking to increase overseas interest.
“The investments from UK Steel Enterprise and Rivers Capital were vital as this is the right time for us to make a strong move forward. Over the past year we have made a significant breakthrough in scaling up the technology and growing our order book. This expansion project reflects the growing blue-chip client base that we are attracting.”
The company’s new Business Development Manager, David Palmer, is already in post and playing an important part in the company’s growth plans.
Sarah Thorpe of investor UK Steel Enterprise said: “Micropore is operating at the leading edge of this technology and has an impressive and experienced management team. We are very pleased to be supporting the company’s growth on Teesside from our Equity Growth Fund, backed by the government’s Regional Growth Fund, and to be co-investing with Rivers Capital. This project demonstrates what can be done when investors, advisers and businesses work in close partnership.”
Dr Michael Dickens, Fund Manager, Rivers Capital Partners said: “The North East Angel Fund provides specialist early-stage funding for innovative small businesses so Micropore is an ideal fit. The company is ripe for expansion with a wealth of knowledge. We are happy to be working alongside UK Steel Enterprise as, despite a number of different investors and advisers being involved, it has been a smooth and successful process.”