The Royal Society Te Apārangi has awarded University of Waikato Professor Kim Pickering the Scott Medal for her research on developing radical new, sustainable manufacturing materials.
The Medal is for engineering, science and technology work of great merit by a researcher in New Zealand, and is presented every two years.
Professor Pickering’s research with the School of Engineering is on composite materials, which combine fibres from things as diverse as hemp and harakeke, to waste plastics. The end product can range from the filament in a 3D printer to furniture.
The Royal Society noted her international standing, and said she is a role model for her colleagues and students on how to work towards a more sustainable planet.
Professor Pickering is focused on developing new materials that can be sustained forever, whether they are from a natural bio-derived base or recycling.
“The most important thing facing the planet is global warming, but many people are in denial. Humans aren’t behaving in a way that’s sustainable, and we need to actually take some action.”
She is putting the idea into practice with not just her work but herself, recycling plastic shopping bags, cycling to work and aiming to have a zero-waste home - one day.
Professor Pickering says her work on 3D printing is at a stage where they are making material that performs well, and will potentially give consumers more options. She is now looking to develop better ways of aligning fibres, and then make them more water resistant.