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UBC Okanagan research leading to green solutions

UBC Okanagan Professor Abbas Milani is pictured with various biocomposite material the composite research network is working to recycle.

KELOWNA - A team of researchers at UBC Okanagan is working on unique ways to recycle materials that would otherwise be thrown into the landfill.

The team creates ways to recycle materials so they can be useful again. An example is biochar, which is a byproduct of land remediation.

“Essentially it is paralyzed wood, burned to the absence of oxygen,” composite research laboratory manager Bryn Crawford says. “We’ve taken away the sand and gravel you would normally find in concrete and replaced it with this biochar,” Crawford says. “Now, I’m left with this lighter product, which is even able to float, plus a lot of carbon is able to be trapped.”

They still have to test the strength of the new material to see what uses it could be applied to, but sidewalks could be an option.

They are also looking at fiberglass because there is little to no impact on performance and it makes the fiberglass cheaper to produce.

Crawford says replacing those fillers with biochar is a method of carbon sequestration. Up to 200 kilograms of carbon could be trapped in a boat made of composite laminate using this method, he says.

“It’s all about looking for these value-adding streams for companies trying to develop local supply chains and novel products, as well as trying to find ways to reduce waste as much as we can,” Crawford says.

Abbas Milani is an engineering professor and the Kelowna-node coordinator of the composite research network. He says B.C. is behind in biocomposite research, with Alberta leading the way in provincial funding.

However Milani does say there is a lot of interest in the budding technology.

“Everyone is excited because at the end of the day we’re trying to make things more environmentally friendly and that creates excitement," he says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Hickman or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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