New packaging materials from renewable sources

Title of the research project

ComBIOsites - Reversibly photocrosslinked BIO-based composites with barrier properties from industrial by-products

Scientific area

Polymer Chemistry, Polymer Science, Composites

Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow 

Sara Dalle Vacche


ComBIOsites aims at developing recyclable composite materials, as a sustainable alternative to traditional plastics for packaging. Bio-based raw materials, such as microfibrillated cellulose from hemp waste, and bio-based polymers from renewable sources will be used, together with an innovative photoinduced reversible crosslinking process.

Description of the research project 

Microfibrillated cellulose (MFC) films act as a good barrier against gases like O2, CO2 and N2, and are therefore appealing for packaging applications. However, MFC is not suitable for use in highly humid environments. Solutions can be provided combining MFC with crosslinked polymers (i.e. thermoset polymers) in the form of composites, but the recyclability of such materials is still an  issue. In the ComBIOsites project, recyclable crosslinked matrices will be synthesized. By grafting to the polymer chains groups that can create crosslinks under irradiation with a certain wavelength and break them by irradiation with a different wavelength, a reversible crosslinking will be obtained.  Composites with a reversible matrix and a cellulosic filler will then be developed in collaboration with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland). The polymers will be bio-based, and the MFC will be produced from hemp waste, in collaboration with CNR (Italy) and the Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble. Eventually MFC and prepolymers can be biodegraded or composted. Finally, photoinduced crosslinking is considered a green process, as it is solvent-free and, being performed at room temperature, it requires low energy consumption; being also very fast, it is suitable for industrial use.

Impact on fellow career and on society 

Research on bio-based recyclable materials is a highly relevant and growing field today, both for fundamental and applied research due to environmental concerns. In fact packaging is the market sector with the highest demand of plastic materials in Europe, i.e. 40% of the total demand of 49 Mt in 2015. While plastic packaging reaches the highest recycling rate among the different plastics applications (about 40%), this number is still far from the waste reduction target set by the European Commission (recycling 55% of plastic packaging waste by 2025). In this framework, the packaging and consumer goods industries constantly seek solutions for reducing the environmental impact of packaging, and this has become one of the largest application fields of bioplastics, i.e. bio-based and/or biodegradable plastics .

Short CV of Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow 

Sara Dalle Vacche holds a degree in Chemical Engineering, and a PhD in Industrial Chemical Processes, from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. After working in the R&D departments of Procter & Gamble and General Electrics Advanced Materials, she became postdoctoral scientist at the Laboratory of Polymer and Composite Technology (LTC) at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Switzerland. In 2013, she obtained a 2-year Marie Heim-Vögtlin grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation. In 2017 she joined the Department of Applied Science and Technology at Politecnico di Torino.


Roberta Maria Bongiovanni, DISAT-Department of Applied Science and Technology, Politecnico di Torino

Scientific Collaborations

Laboratory for Processing of Advanced Composites, EPFL (Swizerland)

LGP2, Grenoble INP-PAGORA (Francia)

Istituto di Sistemi e Tecnologie Industriali Intelligenti per il Manifatturiero Avanzato, CNR (Italia)

ComBIOsites project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 789454

  • Budget: 180.270 euro
  • Start date: 1/08/2018
  • End date: 31/07/2020