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Content archived on 2024-05-29

A novel, innovative and sustainable technique for the manufacture of biodegradable tree shelters with a know life

Final Report Summary - BIO-SHELTER (A novel, innovative and sustainable technique for the manufacture of biodegradable tree shelters with a known life)

The ultimate aim of the BIO-SHELTER project was to develop a biodegradable tree protector using a combination of natural fibres and a tuneable polymer matrix to protect young trees and samplings in their early stages from being attacked by insects or animals. In particular, the tree protector was developed using natural biodegradable reinforcement such as hemp or flax in conjunction with a blended biodegradable polymer matrix having a tuneable life determined by the blended matrix. The material would break down and biodegrade naturally and would be the platform for a low-cost maintenance-free tree shelter.

Two types of environmental tests were conducted on the biodegradable material blends, namely field trials and accelerated weathering. The former involved planting samples in pots which were exposed to various conditions such as sunlight, precipitation and temperature variations. Accelerating weathering was performed using a QUV accelerated weathering tester in which the test materials were cyclically subjected to eight hours dry ultraviolet (UV) light at elevated temperature followed by four hours condensation at 50 Celsius.

Amongst the main results were the following:
- several material blends successfully compounded into pellet form;
- pellets compression moulded into test pieces and environmentally tested;
- weight change monitored as a function of time both 'in the field' and in environmental chamber;
- several material systems exhibiting encouraging results;
- prototype tree spirals manufactured for evaluation.

Prototype tree protectors were successfully produced using a number of candidate material systems and representative samples had undergone long-term environmental tests. Field trial results indicated that three materials may have offered a biodegradable alternative to existing 'non-biodegradable' tree protectors. The next step was to gain product certification which was the ultimate aim of the consortium.