Materials

  • 12 June 2020

    Greenrail

    By Giovanni De Lisi – CEO & Co-Founder of Greenrail Giovanni De Lisi tells his experience in the field of railway infrastructures mentioning the startup Greenrail, that is responsible for creating eco-friendly sleepers made of plastic deriving from urban waste and rubber deriving from the recycling of end-of-life tires. The market where the company operates, was dominated by wood and concrete, with products that had been engineered in the early 1900s. In the world there are one million 700 thousand kilometers of railway lines currently in existence, of which 10% made of wood and the remaining 90% made of concrete. When he decided to start his start-up, De Lisi knew the reference market very well, having a family that deals with the assembly and installation of railway lines and in which he has worked directly for about 5 years. During this experience, he realized that the plastic sleepers, which were being developed at that time, could only be a substitute for 10% of the wooden infrastructures, and so the field of action was extremely limited. The idea was therefore to develop a product that could cover the remaining 90% of production with an environmental friendly material. The reference market for sleepers is a very large market. Just think that only the sleepers replaced for normal maintenance activities are 140 million per year. Beside the dimensions, De Lisi realized that the current dominant product, namely the concrete sleepers, had many limitations and, for this reason, he convinced himself to launch an alternative product that had better technical characteristics. As a startup, Greenrail had to undertake an uphill path: the sleepers mixture was realized in collaboration with the Polytechnic of Milan after 35 attempts. Initially, the mixture of thermoplastic material, obtained from about 50% from end-of-life tires and 50% from recycled plastic...
  • 18 May 2020

    Nlcomp

    Monfalcone, Italy – Sustainability and innovation are at the heart of Northern Light Composites (nlcomp) project, an Italian startup born from the passion for the sea and sailing of the three founders – Fabio Bignolini, Chief Operations Officer, Piernicola Paoletti in the role of Chief Financial Officer, and Andrea Paduano, Chief Technical Officer. The company, which puts a lot of efforts in research and development of natural fibers and recycled materials for the construction of pleasure yachts, was created as a spinoff of Northern Light Sailing Team, a sailing association based in Trieste with notable results in international offshore regattas (among others, they won the ORC European Championship in 2016 and podium at ORC Worlds 2018). Their sailing skills merge perfectly with the know-how of ex-university students, already involved in the construction of sustainable skiffs within the 1001 Vela Cup, a challenge between universities from all over Italy. Given the emergency situation that Italy is experiencing, nlcomp has decided to make an online presentation for its first project: the construction of an eco-sustainable dinghy called “ecoPrimus”. The small ‘optimist-like’ boat, designed in 2016 by Hungarian designer David Bereczki for sailing schools and the first racing steps of young sailors, offers nlcomp team a great platform to work with: the design meets their requirements, the moulds are ready-made and immediately available. Their new dinghy proudly stands on the shoulders of its gigantically successful ancestor, the Optimist – while providing some modern new features and a new generation recycling concept.  The 2.42 meters long boat is 100% built with natural fibers, has a recycled core and a new type resin that allows the boat to be fully recycled. The concept is giving life to a brand-new circular economy in the nautical sector. Furthermore, the technology behind the project aims to solve one of...
  • 8 May 2020

    GS4C

    By Enrico Benco – CEO at GS4C Enrico Benco begins his presentation by introducing the innovative SME GS4C which he co-founded in 2012. GS4C identifies itself as a supplier of sustainable solutions in the sector of composite materials, its mission is precisely to transform materials in order to recover them at the end of their life, validating and making prototypes of sustainable technologies that involve companies in case studies and projects. The GS4C Business Model is based on Open Innovation to support large companies in the manufacturing sector, in particular marine, wind and automotive. The technology and consultancy transfer of Sustainable Solutions in the composite materials sector, has led GS4C to become the touchstone in the sector both nationally and internationally. Loop Mini650 was the first project presented, a sailboat made of 100% recyclable materials that demonstrates the possibility of creating zero-dump composite materials. Loop will also be the first boat equipped with the H2Boat solution with Metal Hydride in a T-shaped keel capable of storing about 7 kWh of energy in the form of low pressure hydrogen, which can be used through a 300 W fuel cell. The sailboat operates in one of the most difficult environments for composite materials (with exposure to UV rays and salt water), besides to the requirements of lightness and mechanical stress, the structure must bear. The project will be a test bed and a promotional vehicle for technology. The fiber of which it is composed is the FilavaTM of the Belgian company Isomatex S.A. FilavaTM production is unique thanks to a genuine and innovative treatment of the raw material: basalt, which is enriched with various mineral additives to increase and guarantee its original mechanical and chemical properties. Among the other projects there is also the one with Enea: it is by B.AI.i, a patented...
  • 20 March 2020

    Mogu

    By Stefano Babbini – CEO at Mogu Mogu creates sustainable and innovative materials, mainly applied in the interior design sector, starting from the idea that it is possible to grow microorganisms, through a fungal fermentation, to structure materials that would otherwise not be consistent. Therefore, starting from these two elements, the fungal strains and the fibers, a line of products has been developed by optimizing the materials according to some process variables, as well as selecting the post-treatments to arrive at high-performance finished products.Mogu’s business model has evolved over time, leading the company to create a functional identity for its target market, interior design and green building. The pillars of Mogu, as shown in the following figure, are their basic technology (fungal fermentation), an approach particularly attentive to design, combined with a strong innovative component related to the bioeconomy sector.The sector where Mogu operates, is that of green building, which is growing at very significant rates, while the products it is targeting are precisely those of interior design, with a focus in particular towards the flooring and the acoustic sectors.The modular Mogu Floor flooring is positioned in a luxury and premium market segment for flooring; the product is the composition of two main elements: the soul made through fungal bio composites, according to a soft and flexible formulation, combined with a Bio PU in which biomass is drowned: this acts as a cover of the final product, generating a product that it is 98% bio-based. The added residual biomasses confer the specific pigmentation of the material, which thus has two upcycling components: the fibers recovered from the textile industry waste that are part of the core, and the filler that also characterizes the aesthetics of the product . This project was also financed by the European Commission through SME instrument...
  • 6 March 2020

    Taller delle terre

    By Giacomo Losio – co-founder of Taller delle terre Taller delle terre (TdT) is a non profit organization that aims to revolutionize the industry of ceramic setting up circular economy production processes. The problem TdT wants to face is connected with the idea of linear systems which are no longer sustainable for our finite planet seeing they are designed on the endless processes of extraction, production, distribution, consume and disposal (the Story of Stuff, 2007).In fact, looking at the interior design sector, both ceramic and stone production chains are responsible for such negative externalities in terms of natural resources exploitation, amount of waste sent to landfill, related environmental impacts and costs for disposal.According to Confindustria Ceramica, in Italy the ceramic market is worth 5,4 billion euro per year (2018) and about 4,572 operating quarries consumed more than 4,6 million cubic meters of soil (Legambiente, Rapporto Cave 2017).At the same time also the world stone industry is responsible for sending to landfill a big percentage of the extracted material, between 20 and 30, with an estimated operating cost about of approx. 30 euro per tonne (Knowledgshare, 2016).These two linear production chains have also considerable negative effects on the environment during all the production and consumption phases (transport, packaging and final disposal): high levels of energy and water consumption; waste production and CO2 emissions (Legambiente, Rapporto Cave 2016). As underlined by United Nation SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), territories need to implement sustainability within 2030: the waste of resources and money can be contained only through innovative solutions that can generate positive effects in terms of environmental, social and economic development.Considering that in 2018, the 9% from the Italian ceramic industry revenues has been invested in new sustainable productions and green technologies, TdT developed a solution that meets these needs. The process TdT...
  • 29 January 2020

    The incoming bioplastics

    By Giovanni Perotto – Engineer and Researcher at IIT Giovanni Perotto, Engineer and Researcher at the Italian Institute of Technology, focused his speech on smart materials and bioplastics, presenting a very interesting speech on technologies developed to convert plant residues into bioplastics. In Europe in 2016, 55 million tons of vegetable waste was produced. This waste is unfortunately thrown, composted or incinerated, all solutions with low added value when not expensive.Perotto explained how in a simple carrot there are materials that nature has engineered for the function that the vegetable must carry out: growing, having a structure, working as long as it is needed and then being reintegrated into the environment once its use is over. The macromolecules inside the carrot like cellulose, pectin, lignin and hemicellulose, have the function of supporting the various parts of the vegetable.The focus of the research being carried out regards the ability to harness these properties to produce short-lived objects (single use, packaging) instead of using plastic. The aim is to obtain solutions to be used as an alternative to common plastic, making entire supply chains such as packaging and disposable plastic more sustainable from an environmental point of view. At the same time this will improve the economic sustainability of the food supply chain, turning all the plant biomass, that is currently being disposed, into a resource. These are the focus areas of his research at the Smart Materials laboratory of the Italian Institute of Technology: the development of technologies necessary to carry out this conversion and the work on vegetable waste materials in order to obtain a suitable performance and to facilitate the implementation of new Circular Economy systems.The goal is to convert what is available as a waste from the food industry, but to achieve this we need to get the...
  • 14 January 2020

    RiceHouse

    By Tiziana Monterisi – RiceHouse CEO RiceHouse is a start-up born in 2016 that tackles the problem related to the construction building sector, that in EU is responsible for 40% of energy consumption, 36% of CO2 emissions and it generates 1/3 of all waste. The problem is widely acknowledged, and EU is setting clear guidelines for a resource-efficient and sustainable circular economy, with the vision of a decarbonised building stock by 2050. In addition, the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) objectives for 2030 are focusing on sustainable cities, responsible consumption, renewable energy and action on climate change. The company produces 100% natural building materials and finishing’s, that derive from by-products from rice cultivation and production. RiceHouse uses raw products such as rice straw, husk and bran, introduces them into the construction cycle and at the end of their service life they return in a circular way to the natural cycle. RiceHouse in an innovative way coordinates and controls a short supply chain, creating new economics from the field to the construction site. The company strongly believes that turning organic waste into a source of value is a key feature of the circular economy and from several years promotes the use of rice by-products from short supply chain. All products developed from the company are highly efficient in terms of energy, 100% natural, formaldeide free and made in Italy. Sustainable and green construction trend is growing fast with a prediction to increase 12% by 2026, with a total value of 254 b€ (50% in Europe). It clearly emerges that the value proposition of Ricehouse has all the features to satisfy the needs of the future demand: it proposes an offer in an economic sector in a phase of change that is based on values already incorporated and shared in different sectors...
  • 20 November 2019

    Plastic offset is here

    Plastic offset is here. Here’s how to do it right by Peter Wang Hjemdahl (Co-Founder, rePurpose Global) A new paradigm is entering the environmental zeitgeist, and that paradigm is plastic offset. So what is it really, and how could it stem the global tide of plastic pollution? Put simply, for every dollar contributed by a polluter, a certain amount of plastic waste would be intercepted from the environment on your behalf as an individual or a company.  All across the developing world, waste management social enterprises have popped up to provide ethical & efficient solutions to our plastic epidemic, yet they are often underfunded and left unable to scale. Inspired by carbon credit, plastic offset is a transformative way of funding these innovations to accelerate our transition towards a circular economy.  Just like carbon, there are as many ways to do plastic offset wrong as ways to do it right. With the complex relationship between consumer responsibility and producer accountability, generating a truly meaningful impact is challenging yet entirely possible. From the landfills and alleyways of Mumbai to corporate headquarters in New York, we spent years understanding both local needs and the global systems that govern our waste. Here are 3 principles we have distilled on how to do plastic offset, right. Principle 1: Hit the problem where it hurts Anywhere in the developing world, if you pay attention to the kinds of plastic that are actually littering our streets, beaches, and landfills, you will notice a trend – it’s dominated by low-value plastic like to-go containers, candy wrappers, and plastic bags.  These materials are classified as low-value plastic because they are extremely difficult to recycle. Shanghai, Cairo, New Delhi, Nairobi, Jakarta – a vibrant informal recycling industry do exists in cities worldwide and employs tens of millions of workers who...
  • 8 October 2019

    Understand and Regenerate

    By Barbara Pollini Understand Barbara Pollini started her presentation by mentioning the contemporary philosopher Timothy Morton who coined the term “hyperobjects” to explain those interconnected phenomenons which have a wide vastness in time and space and that are incomprehensible for us. Climate change is one of them. In this perspective, designer’s ability to value material is important for the environmental impact of a product, also, in the complex world, the sustainability is not a steady-state, once it is reached you can’t keep it, it is a  dynamic threshold based on the continuous research. Designers, very often, are focused on some aspects of the project, and they ignore the life-cycle of the products and their materials; there aren’t many Italian universities that push the students to think about these issues and not many corporates of materials that explain information about the life-cycle of materials. Some designers adopt a critical approach and they reinvent some materials in order to find solutions that the market is not able to propose or in order to show a walkable path or an unresolved problem. Among these examples there is “Studio Swine” which created a stool made by plastic recovered at sea. It’s not part of a series production, but it wants to stimulate a critical thinking on an environment issue through the story of a material. At NABA, during Pollini’s lessons, there have been a lot of trials on DIY materials, that are organic or “made in waste”. Some of the projects are virtuous, such as “Peel Saver”, packaging for the street food made by potato’s peel, created by the students: Simone Caronni, Paolo Stefano Gentile and Pietro Gaeli. Also at Politecnico di Milano there are a lot of studies on DIY materials, Pollini is a tutor of the Metaprogetto Lab that took part at the...
  • 23 September 2019

    New trends for circular materials

    Marco Cappellini’s speech is focused on three themes: the production of new materials and their end-life management, the transition to “products as services” and the measurement of the circularity. Trends in corporates According to a report by OCSE, it is estimated that the number of used resources will double by 2060. In particular, this fact involves specific sectors, as the packaging and the fashion ones, that are promising the recycling and the creation of biomaterials starting from 2020/2030. However, there are no doubts about the possibilities of recycling, but there could be problems about who carry out the process: some corporates produce recyclable products, but they are not recycled. For this reason, it exists the idea that the circular economy is uneconomic: but this is not the truth because multiple international cases prove the contrary. New business realities are proposing new custom materials. Many of these start from the principle of being “biomaterials”, material that are easily biodegradable and, or, compostable; there are other recyclable materials that are recyclable only through very specific processes and methods. This is very worrying because, it is possible to order recyclable products, but it is very hard for consumers to manage the end-life of the products. We can say that corporates have to play a more important role in managing the recycling of materials, for example, by creating a clause that specifies the end-life of the products in the patents. Matrec’s example is about a material made of recycled rubber by PFU, that is a very useful material, but it is undervalued. The input is to add value to the material: Matrec worked for new solutions that can improve sound and heat insulation performance, but they are also working on three-dimensionality. The aim is to increase the value of the materials on the market...
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