BIOPLASTICS: Bio-based materials made from sunflowers.

21. June 2019 | Material | via


Image courtesy of Victor Picon at Atelier Luma

Thomas Vailly, founder of Studio Thomas Vailly (STV), teamed up with scientists from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Ingénieurs en Arts Chimiques Et Technologiques (ENSIACET) laboratory to develop a series of materials using only sunflower bio-matter, according to an article on Commonly grown to produce oil, seeds or bio-fuel, sunflower farming produces agricultural waste that has the potential to be made into valuable resources. Vailly wanted to put every part of the sunflower crop to use, using the left over from the harvest to create both a sustainable material as well as a non-synthetic binder and a non-toxic varnish.

"The rules were simple, we can only use sunflower by-products, no added ingredients," said Vailly. "We work by focusing on one plant at a time – being so specific and constrained allows for exciting findings."

For instance, the press cake – a concentrated substance left over after extracting oil out of the seeds – can be used as animal feed, but it can also be turned into a water-based glue, or can be heated and pressed down into a thin film-like material that resembles leather.

Instead of leaving the stalks to decompose in the field, as would normally happen, Studio Thomas Vailly organises a second harvest to collect them, and separates them into bark and marrow. The bark fibres are heated and pressed into hardboard, while the marrow is combined with the water-based glue made from the sunflower seeds to form a light and foamy composite material that acts as a natural alternative to polystyrene. This glue extracted from the seeds can be used as an adhesive to assemble the different bio-based materials, which can then be coated with sunflower varnish to make them resistant to water.