A natural material made from sugar beet waste to thicken paints, bulk out food, and potentially even manufacture airplane wings has been devised by Scottish scientists. Jim Drury reports.
The root of the humble sugar beet is used to make much of the world's sugar. But the remainder of the plant is destroyed or made into cheap animal feed. But now Scottish scientists are transforming the sugar byproduct into a wonder material named Curran. SOUNDBITE TECHNICAL DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER OF CELLUCOMP, DR DAVID HEPWORTH, SAYING: "The feed stock that we use is from a sidestream of the sugar producing industry. It's the waste pulp that comes after they're removed the sugar, which is then pressed and dried into pellets for ease of shipment. So you can see the bottom of this stick here I've got the dried pellets.....but obviously we want to take this material and turn it into something that has a lot more value." In its factory near Edinburgh, Cellucomp is doing just that. Having originally demonstrated Curran's strength by using it to make fishing rods, the firm turned its attention to selling it in granule form, for use in industrial liquids and composites. Its creators say Curran is eco-friendly, twice as strong as carbon fibre, with impressive viscosity. Decorating guru Cait Whitson worked with Cellucomp to create her new range of Whitson paint. SOUNDBITE FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF WHITSON PAINT, CAIT WHITSON, SAYING: "One of the things I wanted to talk about was durability and one of the things that excited me about the Curran product was that a very small amount of Curran adds a significant amount of durability to the paint product. Secondly was the rheology, about how the paint flowed from the brush." Whitson says Curran makes paint scrub-resistant, avoids unsightly brush marks, and helps prevent cracking. With the paint additive business worth a billion dollars, Cellucomp could be sitting on a goldmine. It wants to expand production fivefold within three years. SOUNDBITE CELLUCOMP CEO, CHRISTIAN KEMP-GRIFFIN, SAYING: "There are all kinds of potential applications that Curran can be used for. It can go into things like paint and coatings, it can go into concrete, cosmetics. It can even be used for drilling fluids, be an additive to go into your food, and go into composites. So you can imagine one day airplane wings made from Curran." All of which paints a very bright future for Cellucomp.