SRUC: ‘Where there’s muck, there’s brass’

SCOTLAND’S Rural College (SRUC) has breathed fresh life into the old adage “Where there’s muck, there’s brass”.

The college has worked with Bristol and Edinburgh universities to investigate alternative uses for cow dung.

At present, dung is used as fertiliser or to produce “biogas”.

Researchers are now highlighting the “staggering” variety of applications for recycled “ruminant waste biomass” (RWB).

These include turning cow pats into “plastic, recycled card and paper or concrete”.

Their study underlined the potential for the dung to be used as a source of “nanocellulose”, a raw material that could be used to make plastic, as an alternative to using oil.

At the moment, RWB would require too much processing to make it an economical alternative, but the college emphasised its potential.

“Given the demand for sustainable materials and the ever-increasing interest in nanocellulose research, it is highly likely that it will soon be brought out of the lab and into factories and everyday products,” said Vijai Kumar Gupta, a senior research fellow at SRUC.

“Ruminant waste biomass could be instrumental for the transition of nanocellulose production to large and economically viable scales.”

Professor Vijay Kumar Thakur, head of SRUC’s biorefining and Advanced Materials Research Centre (BAMRC), added: “Nanocellulose – in combination with other materials such as polymers, metals and ceramics – has huge potential for use in antibacterial agents, antioxidants, sensors, electromagnetic shielding devices, adsorbents in water treatment, fuel cells, electrochromic, and in biomedical applications.”

The study is part of a research project by Thomas Harrison, who is carrying out research at SRUC and the University of Edinburgh to become a doctor of philosophy (PhD), and was published by ScienceDirect.

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