Student Information Centre
Welcome to the Student Information Centre. Here you can find a glossary explaining words you may not be familiar with, and links to other websites where you can find more information relevant to this project.
Everything we make uses resources, that is raw materials to make it from and energy to power the process. Many of the resources on our planet, such as oil and iron ore, exist in fixed amounts. As we use them up, they are not replaced, so they will eventually run out. Before that happens, they will become scarce and expensive. We need to develop new resources that will not run out. These are known as renewable resources.
Renewable energy is produced using the natural power of the sun, wind, or moving water. Renewable materials are produced by living organisms. Usually they come from plants, but they can come from animals, or be made by bacteria.
Of course, we already use renewable energy – think of windmills and water mills, hydroelectric power stations and solar panels. We also use hundreds of renewable materials – wood, cotton, indigo, rayon and rubber to name but a few.
Renewables in action
Farmers, scientists and manufacturers are working to find more ways to use renewable resources, so that our way of life can become more sustainable. Here are some examples:
Plastic packaging from maize
Renewable packaging to wrap foods and other household goods is made from maize (corn) starch. It can replace polyethylene which is made from petrochemicals. As well as being renewable. it is compostable at home, or on an industrial scale.
Painkillers from hemp
Many medicines, including painkillers, are currently made from oil. There is a need to find new raw materials, and also better medicines. A vast amount of research is underway worldwide looking for suitable chemicals in plants to develop into medicines. Sativex is one example. It is derived from hemp and is being assessed as a treatment for multiple sclerosis and as a painkiller.
Fibres for car panels from hemp
Composite panels are made from a mixture of fibres and resin pressed together. The fibres can come from plants such as hemp, replacing non-renewable alternatives such as glass fibre. Composite panels using hemp are widely used in car interiors. As well as being renewable, hemp-fibre panels are lighter and have better sound-insulation properties. Hemp fibres are also safer for factory workers to handle than glass fibre.
Insulation from sheep
Wool from hardy breeds of sheep such as Swaledale, Herdwick and Welsh Mountain is being made into Thermafleece, to insulate walls floors and roofs. It is more effective and easier to handle than glass-fibre insulation. It also uses much less energy to produce – and it’s renewable.
Fuel from trees
Wood from trees has been used as a fuel for thousands of years. More recently, willow trees have been specially grown to provide fuel, known as biomass. This is converted into chips, or pellets, and used in boilers to heat homes or commercial buildings – and even in power stations to produce electricity.
Cosmetics from flowers
Echium is a vivid blue flower often grown in gardens. The seeds contain Omega 3 and Omega 5 fatty acids. These are used in the manufacture of some cosmetics and health products.
Solvents from oilseed rape
Solvents made from oil are widely used to clean machinery such as printing presses. Many of these solvents contain high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which pose a potential risk to workers and the environment. Solvents made from rapeseed oil do not have this problem, and are renewable, but perform just as well.