Maastricht University

Protecting our planet

Understanding the impact of bio-based materials on the environment

We are supporting a research program by Maastricht University to develop a methodology for assessing the sustainability of bio-based materials.

Maastricht University, in the Netherlands, is known for its pioneering problem-based learning model, international outlook and multidisciplinary approach to research and education.

At Maastricht University, researchers are encouraged to work in multidisciplinary teams, and collaborate with national and international organisations and businesses to identify practical solutions to problems. Its high-quality research and education programmes have a strong focus on topical issues such as sustainability, healthy ageing and the impact of technological development on society.

One of the university’s key research areas can be found at the Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials. It is a European-wide institute that was set up in 2016 to conduct innovative research and development into the production and application of advanced bio-based materials for medicine, environmental protection and industry.

The future of bio-based materials

Bio-based materials refer to materials made from renewable biological resources such as plants, wood and organic waste, and are therefore regarded as more ecological than some other materials. Examples of bio-based materials include cellulose fibres, engineered wood and bioplastics.

As awareness, research and funding on bio-based materials have increased significantly over the recent years, questions on how these innovative materials can help address environmental issues have become more important than ever.

Research on the life cycle of bio-based materials

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a technique that is widely used to analyse the full range of environmental impact associated with the different life stages of any product – from raw material processing and manufacturing through to its distribution, use, repair and disposal.

It is a useful tool that enables researchers to compare the life cycle of different materials and optimise the most sustainable options. This is vital in the context of a circular economy, which aims to maximise the value and lifespan of resources, and regenerate materials at the end of their life cycle to minimise waste.

As the development and application of bio-based materials is still relatively new, further research is needed to understand how sustainable they are compared to other existing materials.

We are supporting a three-year research programme as well as a PhD project on the sustainability of bio-based materials in a circular economy. Using the relevant parameters and data, this PhD project will develop and test an updated LCA methodology designed specifically to analyse the life cycles of bio-based materials.

Learn more about research at the Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials