Making the right choice just got a little easier, at least according to Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. The main focus of this research lab is to link applications-oriented research to the practical implementation of new ideas. In other words, to find out more or less which ideas are worth pursuing, and which are better being quietly abandoned by the wayside—preferably before the decision has been made to invest money, time and energy in the project.
To that end, Empa has developed an analysis method that enables the simulation of a number of different scenarios, thus helping product developers and entrepreneurs make more informed decisions and to avoid wasting time and resources. To illustrate, Empa provides an example regarding a method devised as part of an EU-wide research project by a Scottish company called CelluComp Ltd., to obtain nanofibers from carrot waste from the production of carrot juice, which could be used as a natural reinforcement in composites and coatings. These fibers would be both cost-effective and biodegradable—a far more environmentally friendly solution than glass or carbon in terms of end-of-life options. The method worked in the lab. But was it marketable on a large scale?