16 May 2011

UQ research that aims to protect crops without incurring long-term environmental damage has won a major award and resulted in a licence agreement.

Professor Peter Halley's research group from the School of Chemical Engineering and Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) has won the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) for Polymers Chairman's Award for Excellence in Commercialisation.

The team have also signed a licence agreement with major plastic film supplier Integrated Packaging to produce a range of degradable polyethylene films for agricultural and industrial applications.

The research involved the creation of polyethylene for agricultural films and wraps, which would protect crops and paper but break down over time to avoid pollution.

The outcome follows six years of research involving the School of Chemical Engineering,
AIBN, Queensland University of Technology, CSIRO, Integrated Packaging and Birchip Cropping Group.

Professor Halley said the project started in UQ and QUT labs and moved into successful field trials, demonstrating the real-life relevance of the research.

"I'm exceptionally happy to see the efforts from the team of excellent translational research skills and perseverance rewarded," he said.

"This has been one of the most challenging and complex projects I have been associated with, involving national and international partners and the award is a tribute to the team's dedication, commitment and teamwork.

"The Chairman's Award is kudos for the younger researchers and a reward for the research team's focus on working towards the production of a commercial product."

More than 500 films were tested during the research, involving field tests at UQ's Pinjarra Hills site. The different options were analysed for protective properties during the crop's first four-to-six weeks as well as degradation during the crop cycle to stop them overheating closer to harvest.

CRC for Polymers chairman Dr Peter Coldrey said the project was an excellent example of the world-leading technology that could be developed by bringing together a
multidisciplinary team.

Project researchers has begun a "technology transfer" so Integrated Packaging can begin developing the films ahead of sales to agriculture and industry.

UQ staff working on the project include Bronwyn Laycock, Greg Cash, Emilie Gauthier and
Paul Luckman.

Media: Professor Peter Halley (07 3346 3881) or Erik de Wit (0427 281 466, 07 3346 3962, e.dewit@uq.edu.au)