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Engineering Biology in Cambridge


For a feasibility study on creating 3D structures, using raw cellulose as a starting material, as a proof of principle for the use of cellulose as a modern building material.

The Idea

Cellulose is the world’s most abundant polymer; it forms the basis for paper, cotton and wood. The vast majority of cellulose is found in the biomass of plants and algae; making cellulose an environmentally friendly, renewable, biopolymer. The mechanical strength of cellulose is due to the self-assembly of individual polymers into tight fibres. Unfortunately bundling of the cellulose polymers renders the cellulose inert and insoluble – making it problematic for use.

Cellulose can be functionalised via dissolution of cellulose fibres into individual polymers via chemical treatment. This allows the cellulose polymers to be manipulated and re-formed into tailor made cellulose composites. This has the additional benefits of decreasing the use of oil derived plastics, but also would allow the use of cellulose from food waste (such as the juicing industry).

Initially this was proposed as a renewable source of material for 3D printing machines, as a replacement / substitute for plastic materials. Preliminary discussion about the use of cellulose in 3D printing quickly revealed an extended audience that would like to further develop the use of cellulose as a modern material.

The Team

Dr Thomas Torode
Dr Marco Aita
Ward Hills









Thomas Torode (Postdoctoral researcher, SLCU)

Marco Aita (Postdoctoral researcher, SLCU)

Ward Hills (CEO, OpenIOLabs)


Project Outputs