Apr 19, 2019 | Updated: 11:14 AM EDT

Thomas Vailly Creates Products from Sunflower Crop Waste

Apr 08, 2019 09:07 PM EDT

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Harvesting Sunflower Products
(Photo : cogdogblog)
Harvesting Sunflower Products

By using only sunflower by-products and no other ingredient, Thomas Vailly, has embarked on a quest to come up with different products. There are no criteria as to what type of products he would come up with as long as it meets the only condition.

To accomplish working with purely sunflower bio-matter, Studio Thomas Vially (STV), a team founded by Vially, has teamed up with Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Ingénieurs en Arts Chimiques Et Technologiques (ENSIACET).

The sunflower is one of the most abundant plants in America. Although the vibrant flowers are enticing, most homeowners do not have sunflowers in their gardens as the plant tends to spread rapidly and sometimes out of control. This is why sunflowers are usually farmed.

There are a number of sunflower products that people use all the time. Some of the most common are sunflower oil, seeds, or bio-fuel. As a result, other parts of the sunflower plant is disregarded after a harvest producing a whole field of sunflower waste. Upon observing this, Vially has proposed to look into using sunflower waste as another resource. This way, every part of the sunflower will be used creating a sustainable product.

Vially explained his decision in focusing on only one plant at a time. In his opinion, being constrained to a single variable could yield positive results. In effect, after the first harvesting, Vially's team will do a second harvesting for the sunflower waste.

Citing examples, Vially explained that when oil is extracted from sunflower seeds, a concentrated substance called press cake is left. Ordinarily, this is included in animal feed. In Vially's study, however, the press cake can be made into a water-based glue. Another option is making it into a thin film, much like leather by heating it up and later pressing it flat.

Another part of the sunflower that is usually thrown away or left in the field to decompose is the stalk. During the second harvest, STV would separate the marrow from the bark. The marrow is made into a light foamy composite material which is a natural alternative to polystyrene by combining it (marrow) with the water-based glue which was initially made from sunflower seed press cakes. Bark fibers are made into a hardboard when it is heated up and pressed.

Another item that the group has worked on is sunflower varnish.

Vially pointed out that the qualities of bio-based materials are different from their synthetic counterparts. The designer is hoping to expand the variety of products that his team has come up with. Among the items, they are looking to develop are insulating and acoustic panels, office furniture, and disposable packaging. 

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