A four-year research project into recycling food waste into personal care products has been launched at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The research team will undertake a four-year project into whether starchy feedstocks from crops such as potatoes could be turned into medical gels and beauty creams using enzymes.
Professor Yaroslav Khimyak from the UEA’s school of pharmacy said: “As well as helping to reduce waste, this project will also reduce production costs and CO2 emissions currently associated with the manufacturing of conventional gels. It will be both environmentally and biologically friendly.
“We will use UEA’s unique nuclear magnetic resonance research infrastructure to study these very complex materials at molecular level. Our aim is to uncover the origins of the diverse properties of the gels, where the control of interactions between solid and liquid parts is crucial.”
Professor Jesus Angulo, from the same school, said: “This is good news for potato farmers because it means that waste crops could soon be put to better use.
“The results will permit us to tailor and expand the range of gel properties which, in addition to the new enzymatic processes, will allow us to produce sugar-based hydrogels with custom-made properties.”
Researchers will work with colleagues at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich and the universities of Bath and Exeter.
Funding of £800,000 for the research comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Innovate UK IB Catalyst Programme.
Professor Rob Field from JIC said: “Finding environmentally benign ways to convert waste streams from agriculture into value-added products presents many challenges and opportunities.
“It needs a multi-disciplinary team to devise practical solutions that map to industry needs. It is great to have the opportunity to work as part of this team, which brings together science and engineering.”