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OCEANIUM is delighted to partner with academic institutions running groundbreaking research on seaweed science that explores everything from the theoretical to the practical.

Angharad Wood is a postgraduate student who is at the start of her PhD studies at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland. Her project is an IBioIC Collaborative Training Partnership PhD studentship jointly funded by IBioIC and OCEANIUM. Angaharad is collaborating with the OCEANIUM R&D team; Dr. Charlie Bavington, (Co-Founder and CTO) and Dr. Ian Vallance (Materials Innovation Scientist) as part of an exciting project and placement with OCEANIUM to maximise the use of seaweed.

What does your project involve?

“I am part of a research group at the University of Strathclyde, studying to gain a deeper understanding of alginate and, for my research purpose, optimising it for use as sustainable, plastic food packaging.

Alginate is a compound from seaweed which could be extracted along with other compounds. Being able to create a useful and in-demand material out of alginate will maximise the potential of the seaweed and could help to reduce waste.

Alginate can be used to make sustainable and compostable plastic films that would potentially replace fossil-based plastic films. The challenge with alginate films is that they absorb water from their surroundings which reduces their functionality as food packaging. My research involves finding a way to make the films less absorbent, whilst ensuring sustainability and composability.

My project is split into three different parts, molecular simulation is the first and current step in my research and I am running computer simulations to understand how salt addition affects the molecular structure to see how this would affect the absorption of water in alginate films. The experimental stage will involve varying the synthesising and processing of alginate plastic films and testing their relevant physical properties for use as food packaging.

In the final year of my research, I will undertake a 3-month placement with OCEANIUM so that my work can be put into practical use and so I can learn about the rest of the lifecycle of the seaweed and OCEANIUM’s products.”

What attracted you to the placement at OCEANIUM?

“I was attracted to the placement at OCEANIUM, as I have always been passionate about the environment, sustainability and particularly the ocean, therefore, this project has been incredibly exciting.

Seaweed is such an under-utilized resource and I’d like to think that by researching alginate, I am making a positive impact in the world. This project is super important for material innovation, especially as demand for plastic alternatives is higher than ever!”

OCEANIUM is currently developing bio-based materials to replace carbon-intensive and resource-intensive products that have limited end-of-life solutions.

– Dr. Ian Vallance, Materials Innovation Scientist at OCEANIUM

“Angharad’s research provides an exciting opportunity to learn more about the fundamental behaviour of alginate which represents a key element of the processed kelp residue (produced by OCEANIUM’s biorefinery process). The behaviour being studied is critical to exploiting the full potential of this unique raw material. Angharad’s work will also hopefully guide other aspects of future materials development by providing insights on additional functional components to open new opportunities and markets. This will help OCEANIUM maximise the ways this valuable resource can contribute to moving the world away from reliance on materials derived from fossil and carbon, which negatively impact our environment.

OCEANIUM is delighted to be working with Angharad and on a personal note I am enjoying learning about the intricacies (and frustrations) of molecular modelling (an area of molecular science I had little knowledge of before being involved in this project!).”