Winning student team BISC-E develops idea for biodegradable microbeads

Last week two student teams competed for the Dutch ticket to the European final of BISC-E, the competition in which students design a product or process that fits a circular economy. The Leiden-Groningen team SuckerSpheres won with biodegradable microbeads for cosmetics.

This year a team from TU Delft and a team with students from Leiden and Groningen had registered. These are fewer teams than previous years, probably because of corona. Nevertheless, both teams got serious about developing their ideas.

Insulation material from waste water

The team LST from Delft has developed the insulation material Kanbiotherm. Kanbiotherm consists for 80% of MMT clay. The remaining 20% consists of Kaumera, a polymer extracted from the sludge of wastewater treatment plants. The combination of both raw materials results in a lightweight material that is fire-resistant, water-repellent and insulating. The team calculated that the CO2 footprint of Kanbiotherm is a factor 35 smaller compared to the current insulation materials.

Degradable microplastics

SuckerSpheres, the team of students from Leiden and Groningen, developed a solution to the environmental problem of microbeads in cosmetics. The microbeads are not captured in wastewater treatment plants and eventually end up in the sea. Because the plastics are not or hardly biodegradable, they accumulate in the ecosystem. The team developed a biodegradable microbead that can be produced from organic waste streams via fermentation. 

The jury, consisting of Ed de Jong (Avantium), Freek Smedema (RVO), Luuk van der Wielen (TU Delft), Floris Rutjes (Radboud University) and Kees de Gooijer (TKI-BBE) awarded team SuckerSpheres first place. Jury-chairman De Gooijer indicated that the quality of both ideas were close to each other. SuckerSpheres had just worked out their idea a little better and addressed a major environmental problem. Therefore, on 19-20 October, they will participate in the European final organised by the joint bio-based industry within the Bio-based Industry Consortium (BIC).