Natalia Kuznetsova, a graduate of a NUST MISIS master’s program “Technologies and Materials of Digital Fabrication”, has developed a new biodegradable composite material with nettle fiber as a filler. Chemelot Campus (Netherlands), one of the largest chemical clusters in Europe became interested in the project. Under the contract with Chemelot Campus, Natalia Kuznetsova will bring the project to the stage of the first batch of material, ready for use on an industrial scale. Chemelot Campus funding for the development will be 60 thousand euros.
In August 2019, Natalia Kuznetsova, a NUST MISIS graduate, concluded a contract with the Dutch company Chemelot Campus, one of the largest chemical hubs in Europe, to continue developing the nettle composite at the company’s site in the Netherlands. The project to create a biodegradable composite was the graduate thesis at the University’s master’s program “Technologies and Materials of Digital Fabrication”.
Chemelot is a large chemical industry complex, consisting of industrial facilities of the leading European, Japanese, Middle Eastern and Asian petrochemical companies and a campus for innovative companies developing new products.
“Various thermoplastic polymers can be used as a matrix for a composite material. The uniqueness of this material is that the nettle filler reduces the cost of the polymer when calculating the price per kilogram of the material while maintaining its strength characteristics and increasing its elasticity and heat resistance,” — says the author of the project, Natalia Kuznetsova.
So, if we take a biodegradable material — polylactide as the matrix of a nettle composite, then the composite will turn out to be biodegradable and will be cheaper than the analogs. At the same time, due to the new property — heat resistance, it becomes possible to use the new material in products that come in contact with hot liquids, for example, in tableware.
If nettle fiber is used together with recycled polymers, then the polymer content can be reduced to 50%, leaving the possibility to further process this composite and use it as secondary raw material.
From this hybrid, you can make bio-packaging for household chemicals and food products, environmentally friendly children’s toys, jewelry, dishes, office supplies, and even bodies for electronic devices. All these products will be environmentally friendly, functional and at the same time inexpensive.
Interestingly, Natalia Kuznetsova by her first education is not a chemist at all, and not even an engineer, but a financial manager.“The master’s degree in digital production at the country’s leading technical university was my conscious choice, I realized that only managerial skills are not enough to implement a project of this scale. Now I have a development which I created with my own hands with the support of the NUST MISIS professors and engineers. At the same time, I have my successful experience as a manager, which I am sure will help me to make a successful business out of development.”
In the near future, the first industrial batch of the new environmentally friendly material will be produced at the site of the Chemelot Campus chemical hub. In the future, the company is planning to sell it to its corporate partners throughout Europe. The biodegradable composite project was also included in the four finalists of Unilever’s annual acceleration program, with which the negotiations on cooperation are currently being held.