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Natural Materials & Biocomposites Research Group

30 December 2023

UC's Biomaterials Engineering group does research into novel environmentally sustainable materials with the aim of reducing New Zealand’s reliance on materials derived from petrochemicals. Learn more about the Natural Fibre and Biocomposites group.


The Biomaterials Engineering Group at the University of Canterbury engages in research into novel environmentally, sustainable materials to reduce New Zealand’s reliance on materials derived from petrochemicals.

Currently, the group is working on the processing of New Zealand flax fibre (Harakeke), hemp fibre and other sources of cellulose for use in bio-plastics.

The research involves the chemical, thermal and enzymatic treatment of these natural fibres to make them suitable for use as reinforcement in biocomposites.

The structure of the fibres are characterised after treatment using electron microscopy, wet chemistry and spectroscopy techniques. The mechanical properties (strength) of the fibres are measured using specialised equipment within our group to monitor the effect of various treatments to optimise processing treatments.

Finally, the fibres are combined with bio-plastics to form composites using standard processing routes such as hot compression under vacuum.

An extensive range of facilities permits the assessment of mechanical, viscoelastic and thermomechanical properties of the final composite material.

We are currently searching for collaborations with those interested in fibre extraction for use in industrial composite products.

UC academic staff

NZ collaborators

  • Dr. Steve Ranford
    AgResearch Ltd.
  • Dr. Marie Le Guen
    Scion Ltd.
  • Professor Simon Bickerton
    University of Auckland

International collaborators

  • Prof. Jörg Müssig
    University of Applied Sciences, Bremen, Germany (biocomposites)
  • Dr. Nick Tucker
    Linoln University, UK
  • Prof. Dieter Veit
    RWTH Aachen, Germany (textiles)

Ph.D. students

  • Mr. Anton Baranov (all-cellulose composites)
  • Mr. Mark Stoffels (MD simulations)
  • Mr. Pablo Lepe (electrospinning)

Recently graduated postgraduates

  • Dr. Benoit Duchemin
  • Dr. Kamal Adhikary
  • Ms. Sandra Korte (Masters)
  • Mr. Haiyuan Piao (Masters)
  • Dr. Tim Huber (all-cellulose composites)
  • Dr. Andre Pinkert (cellulose chemistry and dissolution, ionic liquid chemistry)
  • Dr. Jonathan Stanger (electrospinning)
  • Dr. Jeremias Schuermann (all-cellulose composites)
  • Dr. Jan Dormanns (all-cellulose composites)

Previous Project/COP students

  • Benoit Duchemin, Vincent Bideaud, Sandra Korte, Marie Houillon, Mathieu
  • Bailly, Dominique Chiffre, Christophe Castan, Alexander Kermer, Karen
  • Denizot, Till Hermanns, Stephen Eilbraucht, Michael Lengersdorf, Remi Guigon.

  • All-cellulose composites
  • Cellulose-based biofoams
  • Protein-based materials
  • Bio-based nanocomposites
  • Interfacial properties in biocomposites
  • Recycled wood fibre-recycled polymer composites
  • Environmental performance of biocomposites

Refereed journal publications

  • M.T. Stoffels, M.P. Staiger, C.M. Bishop, “Equilibrium moisture content of a crosslinked epoxy network via molecular dynamics simulations”, 2016, Modelling and Simulation in Materials Science and Engineering, 24, 5, pp.

  • D. LeCorre-Bordes, N. Tucker, T. Huber, N. Buunk, M.P. Staiger, “Shear-electrospinning: extending the electrospinnability range of polymer solutions”, Journal of Materials Science, 2016, 51, pp. 6686–6696.

  • J.W. Dormanns, J. Schuermann, J. Müssig, B.J.C. Duchemin, M.P. Staiger, “Solvent infusion processing of all-cellulose composite laminates using an aqueous NaOH/urea solvent system”, Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, 2016, 82, pp. 130–140.

  • S. Karimi, M.P. Staiger, N. Buunk, A. Fessard, N. Tucker, “Uniaxially aligned electrospun fibers for advanced nanocomposites based on a model PVOH-epoxy system”, Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, 2016, 81, pp. 214-221.

  • J.W. Dormanns, F. Weiler, J. Schuermann, J. Müssig, B.J.C. Duchemin, M.P. Staiger, “Positive size and scale effects of all-cellulose composite laminates, Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, 2016, 85, pp. 65-75.

  • J. Schuermann, T. Huber, D. Le Corre, G. Mortha, M. Sellier, B. Duchemin, M.P. Staiger, “Surface tension of concentrated cellulose solutions in 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate”, Cellulose, 2016, doi: 10.1007/s10570-015-0850-5.

  • M.J. Le Guen, R.H. Newman, A. Fernyhough, G.W. Emms, M.P. Staiger, “The damping-modulus relationship in flax-carbon fibre hybrid composites”, Composites Part B, 2016, 89, pp. 27-33.

  • B. Duchemin, D. Le Corre, N. Leray, A. Dufresne, M.P. Staiger, “All-cellulose composites based on microfibrillated cellulose and filter paper via a NaOH-urea solvent system”, Cellulose, 2016, 23, 1, pp. 593-609.

  • P.G.T. Lepe, N. Tucker, L. Simmons, A.J.A. Watson, A.J. Fairbanks, M.P. Staiger, “Sub-micron sized saccharide fibres via electrospinning”, Electrospinning, 2015, 1 (1), pp. 2391-7407, DOI: 10.1515/esp-2016-0001.

  • M. M. Hassan, L. Schiermeister, M.P. Staiger, “Sustainable production of carbon fiber: Effect of cross-linking in wool fiber on carbon yields and morphologies of derived carbon fiber”, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 2015, 3 (11), pp. 2660-2668.

  • M. M. Hassan, L. Schiermeister, M.P. Staiger, “Thermal, chemical and morphological properties of carbon fibres derived from chemically pretreated wool fibres”, RSC Advances, 2015, 5 (68), pp. 55353-55362, DOI: 10.1039/C5RA10649D.

  • B.J.C. Duchemin, M.P. Staiger, and R.H. Newman, “High-temperature viscoelastic relaxation in all-cellulose composites”, Macromolecular Symposia, 2014, 340, 1, pp. 52–58. (doi: 10.1002/masy.201300123).

  • T. Huber, B. Kuckhoff, T. Gries, D. Veit, S. Pang, N. Graupner, J. Mussig, M.P. Staiger, “3D braiding of continuous regenerated cellulose fibres”, Journal of Industrial Textiles, DOI: 10.1177/1528083714540695.

  • S. Kalka, T. Huber, J. Steinberg, K. Baronian, J. Müssig and M. P. Staiger, "Biodegradability of all-cellulose composite laminates", Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, 2014, 59, pp. 37-44.

  • M.J. Le Guen, R. H. Newman, A. Fernyhough and M. P. Staiger, "Tailoring the vibration damping behaviour of flax fibre-reinforced epoxy composite laminates via polyol additions", Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, 2014, 67, pp. 37-43.

  • A.H. Nurfaizey, J. Stanger, N. Tucker, N. Buunk, A. R. Wood and M. P. Staiger, "Control of spatial deposition of electrospun fiber using electric field manipulation." Journal of Engineered Fibers and Fabrics, 2014, 9, 1, pp. 155-164..

  • T. Huber, S. Bickerton, J. Müssig, S. Pang and M.P. Staiger, “Flexural and impact properties of all-cellulose composite laminates made from a rayon textile”, 2013, Composites Science and Technology, 2013, 88, pp. 92–98.
  • B.J. Duchemin, R.H. Newman and M.P. Staiger, "Aerocellulose based on all-cellulose composites", Journal of Applied Polymer Science, accepted

  • B.J. Duchemin, R.H. Newman and M.P. Staiger, "Structure-property relationship of all-cellulose composites", Composites Science and
    Technology, accepted.

  • J.J Stanger, N. Tucker, K. Kirwan and M.P. Staiger, ³Effect of charge density on the Taylor cone in electrospinning², International Journal of
    Modern Physics B, in press.

  • J.J Stanger, N. Tucker, K. Kirwan and M.P. Staiger, "The effect of electrode configuration and substrate material on the mass deposition
    rate of electrospinning", Journal of Applied Polymer Science, in press.

  • K.B. Adhikary, S. Pang and M.P. Staiger, ³Effects of Accelerated Freeze-Thaw Cycling on Physical and Mechanical Properties of Wood
    flour-recycled Thermoplastic Composites², Polymer Composites, in press.

  • K.B. Adhikary, S. Pang and M.P. Staiger, ³Accelerated ultraviolet weathering of recycled polypropylene-sawdust composites², Journal of
    Thermoplastic Composite Materials, in press.

  • J.J. Stanger, M.P. Staiger, ³Electrospinning ­ A Review², Rapra Report, in press.

  • J.J. Stanger, M.P. Staiger, N. Tucker and K. Kirwan, ³Effect of charge density on the Taylor cone in electrospinning², Solid State Phenomena, 151, 2009, pp. 54-59.

  • Fibre treatment laboratories
  • Laboratory Carding
  • Vacuum hot pressing
  • Vacuum oven drying
  • Full range of mechanical testing
  • Dynamical Mechanical Analyser (TA Instruments, TA800 with humidity control)
  • Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC, Perkin Elmer 8000)
  • Atomic force microscopy
  • FE Scanning electron microscopy
  • Transmission electron microscopy

See the Mechanical Engineering laboratories and facilities

  • NZ Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST)
  • Plant and Food Research
  • Scion
  • AgResearch
  • Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
  • EcoFibres Pty. Ltd. (Australia)

Research Opportunities

Postgraduate Research Projects Available

If you are interested in the research direction of the Materials Group , and you are in possession (or about to be) of a good Honours degree in Mechanical Engineering, please contact:

Find research groups

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