The benefits of UK grown rosemary are set to be explored with the potential to create a new genre of renewable bio-based antioxidants.
Polymer scientists at the University have been awarded a £235,000 grant to develop a range of antioxidants from the active natural ingredients present in rosemary.
The aim of the research is to replace some synthetic antioxidants with rosemary-derived antioxidants to add a natural and renewable source to products in areas as diverse as cosmetics, food and drink packaging and car lubricants. This will also help address potential issues relating to safety and toxicity in human-contact applications.
Dr Sahar Al-Malaika, Reader in Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, who is a pioneer on the use of vitamin E as an antioxidant in polymers, believes that this latest research could prove as significant. She and her team are studying UK grown rosemary in particular, as evidence suggests the plant yields higher levels of antioxidants than those grown on the continent.
‘Rosemary has long been recognised for its health and medicinal benefits, but only when used at everyday temperatures,’ said Dr Al-Malaika. ‘To add natural rosemary antioxidants into everyday products, it has to be mixed and heated with other ingredients to give the desired manufactured consumer product. The challenge here is to produce rosemary-based antioxidants that remain active at the high temperatures needed for commercial manufacturing and other applications, which has never been achieved before.
‘If we succeed, it could remove our total reliance on synthetic antioxidants and create a new generation of renewable antioxidants made from a UK grown source. This would help address issues relating to safety and toxicity in human-contact applications as well as adding stability to a diverse range of everyday products including cosmetics, plastic for food packaging, bio-diesel and lubricants for automotives.’
Words by Alex Earnshaw