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Possibilities through advancements in nanotechnology for development of high value eco-friendly new biopolymers and their applications

Final Report Summary - NAPOLY (Possibilities through advancements in nanotechnology for development of high value eco-friendly new biopolymers and their applications)

The overall objective project was to investigate and identify the possibilities that advancements in nanoscience and nanotechnology could give for the development of new biopolymers and new biopolymer-based products. These new biopolymers could then be used to high value eco-friendly industrial applications to ensure sustainable development.

The objectives of the projects' workpackages were the following. The objective of WP1 was to find out suitable renewable raw materials for future use in medical and paper / packaging applications, further more to the goal was to see what were the processing and industrial needs for bio based nanostructured materials. The main objectives of WP2 were to recognise and classify characterization and testing needs as well as requirements for new nanotechnology based biopolymer materials and applications. Also possibilities for reducing experimental needs using simulation methods had to be explored in order to verify the suitability of such methods. A third area to be taken into account was the identification of testing and standardization needs for new nanotechnology based natural polymers. The general objectives of WP3 were to investigate the possibilities that nanotechnology opened for biopolymers to be used in biomedical applications. The main objective of this Work Package was to provide a realistic survey of expected basic and industrial developments in the field of health and medical systems, based on the use of nanosciences and nanotechnologies. The developments in the biomedical field were also placed within the broad international context to identify points of strengths and weaknesses in Europe. The main objective of WP4 was to evaluate the possibilities of new type of nanostructured biopolymers to be used in paper and board applications instead of traditional additives and chemicals or pigments and fillers of mineral origin. For paper and board industry there was a need to strive towards sustainable development and to change the industrial basis towards sustainability taking the environmental aspects more into account than what was currently done. One aim of the work was to identify common interests and connection points of new biobased nanomaterial development for two totally different industrial segments, paper and board products and biomedical applications. In WP5 the aim was to identify the potential research areas and strategies of ecological, and socio-economic sustainability for the use of natural polymers or biopolymers. The main objectives of WP5 were the identification of ecologic and socio-economic aspects and needs that had to be taken into account when conducting research projects on biopolymers and their applications in the fields of biomedicine and paper and packaging. Moreover, aspects of the sustainable use of raw-material for the new biopolymers, the processes and the new products used in packaging and paper industry and biomedicine had to be identified. The objectives of WP6 were to identify a contact network of persons to whom disseminate information on the use of biopolymers or natural polymers in different applications in an eventual research project to develop such applications. The aim also was to find out from relevant industry of their interest in using or replacing the existing raw material polymers with biobased ones. The further objective was with these tasks to find out measures for confirming commercial viability of the use of biopolymers or natural polymers in applications to be developed. Additional objectives in this WP6 were to find out related research projects already running concerning the NAPOLY subject areas. One objective was as well to make a publication on the current status of biopolymers and natural polymers. As the last objective in WP6, the aim was to introduce suggestions for educational curricula such that knowledge is sufficient within the research institutions and in industry for development and application of biopolymers or natural polymers. Lastly, the main objective of WP7 was to assure that the project was well executed according to the plans and that the administration of the project was proper.

In WP1 literature studies were carried out on possible biopolymers which could be used for packaging / medical applications. The results of this study clearly showed that there was ongoing research on this area but it was not focussed on the industrial needs.

In WP2 the use of solutions that nanotechnology could offer in the natural polymers development field were explored and set in the international frame of the research current activities.

All the foreseen aspects were developed through:
- Bibliographic study of the current literature in the field
- Participation to international and national conferences on the new topics
- Research of Experts and potential partners for WP2
- Meetings and contacts with experts and potential partners in: Academic research centres, independent and other research centres and industries
- Interview with experts in the different fields of interest
- Visits to industries interested in developing natural polymers instead of oil based polymers
- Preparation of a report for each topic.

The work performed in WP3 could be conveniently divided into three main actions:
a) Collection of information from different sources;
b) laboration and storage of collected information;
c) Dissemination of information and results.

WP4 focused in the development of natural polymer based pigments and fillers for papermaking applications. The work was started by performing complementing literature searches from scientific databases and internet. Data achieved through literature was used as a basis in expert interviews. A seminar was arranged, as well as smaller expert workshops for data compilation. The future trends were estimated by attending conferences about nanotechnology and paper and board applications.

In WP5 the actual starting point had to be proper definition of the field of research deriving from a thorough literature research. The workpackage focused on the key terms 'sustainability' and 'nanotechnology'. The task to really define the research topic reproved to be quite difficult: one output of the literature research was the many times quoted problem of a lack of proper definitions of the two key terms: nanotechnology and sustainability.

For WP6 the work performed consisted of mapping running projects in FP6 for different priorities. By the time of the NAPOLY project and especially towards the end of it, information started to be available also on the following Framework Programme FP7.

In WP7 the coordinator took care of consortium management tasks. The work performed included communication between the consortium and the Commission representative, acting as the overall coordinator of the project NAPOLY, preparation of regular partners meetings according to the Consortium Agreement, compilation of required reports and financial administration of the project.

The main achievements of the project NAPOLY were:
- Literature reviews of the state-of-the-art of different areas of the project
- Expert networks
- Set of focused research subjects that the project suggests to be furthered in the subject area.

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