Biocomposites Research Seminar Event

Thursday, April 29, 2021, 1:00-3:30 pm PST
Online via Zoom – Register here

  • Biomass Supply Chain: A Vital Aspect of Bio-Projects – Dr. Taraneh Sowlati, Professor, Department of Wood Science, University of British Columbia
  • Monomers, Biopolymers, and Bio-based Materials from Renewable Resources – Dr. Aman Ullah, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science, University of Alberta
  • Waste Valorization and CO2 Reduction in Cementitious Composites – Dr. Cristina Zanotti, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia
  • When Old Dogs Learn New Tricks: The Blending of Disciplines in the Furtherance of Natural Fiber Research – Dr. Grant Bogyo, President , Dr. Grant R Bogyo Inc.
  • Organic Composites for Building Applications – Mr. David Derbowka, CEO, Passive Remediation Systems Ltd
  • Reactive Extrusion of Biopolymers – Dr. Praphulla Tiwary, CEO, Plantee Bioplastics Inc.

Seminar Event
Thursday, April 29, 2021, 1:00-3:30 pm PST

Online via Zoom – Register here


  • Dr. Taraneh Sowlati, Professor, Department of Wood Science, University of British Columbia
  • Dr. Aman Ullah, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science, University of Alberta
  • Dr. Cristina Zanotti, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia
  • Dr. Grant Bogyo, President , Dr. Grant R Bogyo Inc.
  • Mr. David Derbowka, CEO, Passive Remediation Systems Ltd
  • Dr. Praphulla Tiwary, CEO, Plantee Bioplastics Inc.

Advanced Functional Materials from Forest Biomaterials

Wednesday, November 27, 2019 | 2:00-3:00 pm | EME 2111, UBC Okanagan

Ning Yan
Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry,
University of Toronto

Summary of the talk
There is a growing interest in deriving products and functional materials from renewable feedstock to lower our reliance on fossil fuel while reducing environmental impact. My research team has done extensive research in developing light weight biocomposites, bio-based adhesives, resins, polyols and foams using biomass material as the starting material.
By taking advantage of some distinctive properties of nanocrystalline cellulose, nanofibril cellulose, and lately, novel lignin containing nanofibril cellulose, we have developed various functional materials and industrial targeted bio-based composites for applications in automotive, construction, energy storage and electrochemical sensors with excellent performance. An overview and some latest findings from our research activities will be presented.

Dr. Ning Yan holds a Distinguished Professorship in Forest Biomaterials Engineering at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry in the University of Toronto. She was also an Endowed Chair in Value Added Wood and Composites. Dr. Yan is currently the Director of the Low Carbon Renewable Materials Centre in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. Dr. Yan has more than150 peer-reviewed journal papers, 7 patent applications. She is an international expert on forest biomaterial science and bio-based products and has won numerous prestigious awards for her research excellence including the Early Researcher Award, Connaught Innovation Award, and NSERC Discovery Accelerator Supplements Award. She obtained her Ph.D. from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry of the University of Toronto in 1997.

UBC engineers create ways to keep stone waste out of landfills

Using polymers and natural stone slurry waste, researchers at UBC Okanagan are manufacturing environmentally friendly stone composites.

These new composites are made of previously discarded materials left behind during the cutting of natural structural or ornamental stone blocks for buildings, construction supplies or monuments. While reusing the waste material of natural stone production is common in cement, tile and concrete, adding the stone slurry to polymers is a new and innovative idea, explains School of Engineering Professor Abbas Milani.

A growing industrial demand for multifunctional bio-friendly raw materials is pushing researchers to develop value-added and energy-saving biocomposites and processes, he explains.

“Because the slurry is a waste material, it comes at a lower cost for recycled composite production,” says Milani, director of UBC’s Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI)

Milani and his colleagues recently received UBC eminence funding to establish a cluster of research excellence in biocomposites. The cluster will develop novel agricultural and forestry-based bio and recycled composites to minimize the impact of conventional plastics and waste on the environment.

The powdered stone waste used in the project provides flexibility to the new particulate polymer matrix composite. It can be mixed at different ratios into the finished product through appropriate heat or pressure to meet structural requirements or aesthetic choices, defined by industry and customers.

“This green stone composite can easily be integrated into a variety of applications,” says UBC Research Associate Davoud Karimi. “These composites can be used in decorations and sanitation products ranging from aerospace to automotive applications.”

The researchers varied the amount of stone added to the composites then tested several parameters to determine strength, durability and density along with thermal conductivity. The molding and mechanical tests were conducted in the Composites Research Network Okanagan Laboratory with collaboration from the MMRI.

By adding the stone waste to the composites, researchers determined that it not only increased the virgin polymer’s strength and durability, but the composites’ conductivity increased proportionally based on the amount of stone added.

“The increased strength is important, but the increased conductivity (up to 500 per cent) opens a huge door to several new potential applications, including 3D printing with recycled composites,” explains Milani.

“Any time we can divert waste from landfills and generate a product with the potential of economic benefit is a win-win,” Milani adds. “We hope that these sorts of products, that are carefully designed with the aid of multi-disciplinary researchers focused on 3R measures (repairable, reusable, and recyclable), can significantly contribute to the economy of our region and Canada as a whole.”

The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the National Research Institute for Science Policy (NRISP). It was recently published in two prestigious journals Composite Structures and Composites Part B: Engineering.

UBC study finds health isn’t the only issue with bacteria growth

Microorganisms growing inside aging buildings and infrastructure are more than just a health issue, according to new research from UBC Okanagan.

The research, coming from the School of Engineering and biology department, examined the impact of fungal mould growth and associated microbes within structures on university campuses. The study focuses on the observed biodeteriorative capabilities of indoor fungi upon gypsum board material (drywall) and how it affects a building’s age and room functionality.

Assistant Professor Sepideh Pakpour says fungal growth significantly affected the physical (weight loss) and mechanical (tensile strength) properties of moisture-exposed gypsum board samples. In some cases, tensile strength and weight of some boards decreased by more than 80 per cent.

And she notes the issue of fungal growth, intensified by climate change, is two-fold.

“Increasing flooding and rainfall related to climate change is aiding fungi to grow more rapidly, causing degradation of the mechanical properties of buildings and infrastructure,” she says. “Not only are the fungi breaking down the integrity of our buildings, but their proliferation is increasing health hazards for the people who live and work in these buildings.”

The researchers also looked at other factors that can impact microbial growth including temperature, humidity, dustiness and occupancy levels—the more people, the quicker it can grow

According to the study, drywall experienced a significant effect on its mechanical properties when microbes were present. If the microbes were bolstered by moisture, the drywall’s ability to withstand breakage when under tension dropped 20 per cent. Older buildings, on average, exhibited higher concentrations and types of fungi in the air, leading to higher mould coverage and biodeterioration on the drywall.

“Our findings would suggest a critical need towards multi-criteria design and optimization of next-generation healthy buildings,” explains Pakpour. “Furthermore, we hope this study will enable engineers, architects and builders to develop optimal designs for highly microbial-resistant building materials that will decrease long-term economic losses and occupant health concerns.”

The inter-disciplinary research was overseen by UBCO Biology Professor John Klironomos, Professor Abbas Milani, director of the School of Engineering’s Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute, and Pakpour, who supervised the microbial and material degradation analyses conducted by their doctoral student Negin Kazemian.

The researchers plan on turning their attention next to the exposure levels of airborne microorganisms and possible remedies.

The latest study, partially funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant, was published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal.

Aerogels and Aerogel Composites: From Thermal Insulation to Battery Applications

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 | Time: 9:30-10:30 AM | Room: EME 2131, UBC Okanagan

Dr. Barbara Milow
German Aerospace Center
Institute of Materials Research
Department of Aerogels and Aerogel Composites

Summary of the talk
Aerogels are high-performance porous materials synthesized via sol-gel processes. The morphology of aerogels leads to a unique combination of materials properties as it is built by interconnected nanometer scaled particles and pores. Aerogels possess extremely high porosities of up to 99.9% and high surface areas of up to 3300m²/g. Thanks to morphology aerogels are super insulating materials, deliver ultra-low densities and can act as selective adsorbents. To improve the low mechanical strength diverse combinations with further materials for reinforcement are suitable.
For many years a team of scientists and technicians works on Aerogels and Aerogel Composites at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Institute of Materials Research, in Cologne, Germany. R&D is focused on various applications including thermal insulating for high temperature applications and even under cryogenic conditions, VOC, CO2 and humidity absorption, foundry applications, lightweight construction, new high efficient battery concepts and further more. An interesting selection of these research efforts will be presented.

Biocomposites Cluster Kick-off Meeting

A group of UBC faculty members and industry associates joined together in the first networking session of the Biocomposites Research Cluster, funded through UBC Okanagan Eminence Program, to strengthen their partnership regionally and internationally for future collaborative projects. The cluster is currently welcoming new faculty and industry members from across Canada, and targets to form a BioComposites Research Network.

Mould can infiltrate and weaken biocomposite materials

When something goes mouldy in the fridge, it is annoying and wasteful.

However, at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering, mould is proving increasingly important in the domain of engineering materials and can lead to early deterioration and structural failure. This is especially the case as manufacturers adopt more bio-derived materials in the drive towards a greener future, explains researcher Bryn Crawford.

At UBC’s Okanagan campus, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from the Composites Research Network and the Department of Biology, in collaboration with MIT and the National Research Council of Canada, have been studying the development and application of bio-sourced composites—specifically flax and hemp fibres. These materials are plentiful in Canada and can be mixed with other materials to create cheaper, recyclable, and effective composite material products that are used by a range of industries, including in transportation.

“Canada has a lot of biomass that can be used to produce materials that are both light and inexpensive,” explains Crawford. “We’re looking at ways of using biomass in engineering, but there is a level of natural deterioration in these products that is still not fully understood.”

In the study, researchers conducted a number of experiments to determine if and when mould will grow on bio-materials and how it might affect the final product.

“When we bring microbiology into engineering, it raises some extra questions; some questions we’ve never thought about before,” says Crawford. “But because we’re now using biological matter, we have to think of fungal growth and how this fungal growth will affect a product.”

The research team examined flax and hemp fibres alongside other natural materials to determine what would happen over time to these fibres. They created ‘fibre sheets’ and then added fungi to some, water to others, and left another group of sheets untreated.

Crawford says they are not surprised that the materials grew mould; the idea of the project was to determine the types of environment where the fungal spores would grow and then test mechanical properties of the affected materials. The team conducted a variety of tests examining them for strength, stiffness, or the amount of energy that can be absorbed before the materials failed. They also used scanning electron microscopy to take an extreme close-up of the interior of the sample to determine fungal growth patterns, examine fractures, and failure zones.

“It was a huge experiment and we found that in both the hemp and flax fibres, when no fungi were added, we still had fungi growing,” Crawford adds. “Basically, when raw natural fibres are exposed to high relative humidity, mould will grow and the potential for premature structural failure can occur.”

Crawford says that this susceptibility to mould growth is important for supply chains and factories to understand and manage in order to ensure they’re creating robust products.

“Bio-composites made from natural fibres are good for both the environment and the economy and could help usher in the next revolution in manufacturing. More inter-disciplinary research of this kind is vital to producing high-quality and durable bio-materials that help make that leap.”

The research was recently published in Materials and was partially funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Fonds de recherche du Québec—Nature et technologies. It was conducted in collaboration with Sepideh Pakpour, Negin Kazemian, John Klironomos, Karen Stoeffler, Denis Rho, Joanne Denault and Abbas Milani.