​Arts & Culture

AUB awarded £1.6m for plastics research centre to help shape products of tomorrow – and the past

A display at the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP).

By Daniel Face [email protected]

Published: January 18, 2024 | Updated: 18th January 2024

AUB logoArts University Bournemouth (AUB) has secured £1.6m funding from Research England to create a new centre for research into plastics innovation and curation.

Experts will explore how plastics degrade over time or behave in different environments, sharing their findings with both manufacturers and museums.

The project will link the expertise of AUB’s Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP) with the design, manufacturing and testing capabilities of the Creative Technologies Research Group at the university’s Innovation Studio.

Dr Christian McLeningDr Christian McLening, director of research and development at AUB, is set to head up the new centre.

He said: “The centre’s purpose is twofold. On the one hand, we’re curating and preserving a collection of plastics that make up our own rich product history.

“With the increased focus on alternative materials, there’s a danger that we’ll lose iconic plastic products from our everyday lives.

“On the other hand, we’re exploring the environmental future of plastics and the role it plays in sustainability.

“When’s the best time to use plastics to ensure we’re developing better products and using plastic wisely? What happens to plastics in 20 years’ time?

Research England logo“As it’s a relatively new material, we don’t know what’ll happen to these products in the future, and to prepare for the future it’s vital we know this.

“That’s one of the many things this research centre will be looking to achieve, to understand how plastics behave and how this can shape and better design the products of tomorrow, specifically with reuse, recycling and repurposing in mind, to give them longevity.”

AUB will put the Expanding Excellence (E3) funding towards the creation of a materials lab to test and identify different types of plastics and help support museum conservation efforts.

The university is also looking to develop a range of CPD courses to improve specialist knowledge around plastics conservation in both industry and heritage sectors, as well as provide a consultative offer on plastics identification.

Paul GoughPaul Gough, principal and vice-chancellor at AUB, added: “This is a huge prize for the university and for all our environmental futures.

“Understanding the preservation of ageing plastics is of international importance for those objects made of the material, and for the sustainable development of new plastics-based products.

“The research emanating from this large grant will be of immediate relevance to global design and manufacturing industries as well as museums, of which MoDiP at AUB is a national institution.”

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