Dyson pioneers use of biopolymers for ‘closed loop’ vacuum cleaners

Dyson is exploring the feasibility of using biopolymers in its products to improve environmental performance, potentially through the adoption of a closed loop engineering process.

The British manufacturer is working with the University of Cambridge and the Centre for Process Innovation on a circular economy led project, funded by the Technology Strategy Board. The work will assess the life impact of biopolymers and their suitability for use in Dyson products.

According to the team at Dyson leading on the project, biopolymers exhibit a number of properties, such as good transparency, glossy appearance, high rigidity and ability to tolerate various types of processing conditions, which make them ideal fort the product portfolio.

Dyson’s external research programme manager Owen Nicholson said that biopolymers could also potentially enable the company to recycle its products back to their original state.

“Biopolymers are really exciting because they have the potential to be reused infinitely and that is the perfect material if you want to look at recycling, because you don’t lose performance and you can essentially use less material,” he explained.

Dr Graham Hillier, director of strategy and futures at the Centre for Process Innovation, is also involved in the project and actively looking at what he calls “closed loop scenarios” for these materials.

This basically means once a Dyson product reaches its end-of-use, the biopolymers could be reclaimed, broken down and brand new structural chains created from them, making a second generation biopolymer as good as its predecessor.

This would allow the biopolymer to be recycled back into the same application with no loss of performance. However, achieving this in reality currently presents a number of challenges, Hillier added.

“[Biopolymers] look a very attractive product to use … it could be used in a closed loop, but there is a significant amount of work to do before that promise is realised,” he said.

Maxine Perella

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