Engineering students from Canterbury Christ Church University recently joined forces with Tensei, a company that specialises in designing and producing innovative plant fibre materials, to investigate and research their latest sustainable material.

The innovative partnership showcases the School of Engineering, Technology and Design’s CDIO (Conceive, Design, Implement, and Operate) approach to an integrated academic curriculum. Providing a unique industry perspective, giving students real-world industry challenges and insights into how their studies and skills can solve them.

The opportunity to work with industry professionals on real word projects while completing my studies has given valuable context to what is being taught. While studying you research so many different areas of engineering it can be difficult to know what career to pursue post-graduation. These projects not only teach you new skills, but also give you some insight into what working in this industry would be like. Taking part in these projects has given me reassurance and confidence that my ability as a student will translate to my later employment

Chris Wall, first year Mechanical Engineering student

The collaboration explored the use of sustainable materials, particularly focusing on the use of polymers combined with agricultural residues. Students from the Material Engineering module took part in the hands-on project using Tensei’s newly developed compounds. These materials, termed Second Harvest, use agricultural by-products such as fruit skins and cereal grains, which are typically underutilised, and providing an alternative environmentally friendly solution to reducing plastic use.

Students were tasked with characterising these polymers enhanced with agri-residue fillers, assessing their properties like 3D printability, recyclability, and mechanical properties. The project not only provided a practical learning experience but also aimed to make a positive impact on the environment by promoting sustainable practices.

The students’ findings demonstrated that the Second Harvest materials could effectively replace traditional plastics in various uses, potentially revolutionising the industry with greener alternatives. These findings were well-documented in a series of group reports, which articulated the detailed investigations and experiments conducted by the students.

Four images of the material being tested with machines and how the material looks under a microscope

Dr Salman Saeidlou, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical/Material Engineering, delivered the Material Engineering module as part of the School’s curriculum. He said: "Integrating Tensei's innovative materials into our curriculum provided students with invaluable exposure to cutting-edge sustainable technology. This project not only enhanced their learning but also instilled a sense of responsibility towards using science for social good."

This CDIO project exemplifies how academic institutions and industries can collaborate effectively to foster education that resonates with global challenges. By bridging the gap between theoretical studies and practical implementation, Canterbury Christ Church University and Tensei are setting a benchmark for education in sustainable engineering. Proving that when academia and industry collaborate, the possibilities are limitless

Dr Salman Saeidlou, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical/Material Engineering,

The project was part of a social values programme by Tensei who had received a Growing Kent & Medway grant. Looking forward, both Canterbury Christ Church University and Tensei are committed to continuing this partnership, exploring further opportunities for student engagement and research into sustainable materials.

Working with Canterbury Christ Church University was a great experience for Tensei. It was wonderful to see how the students approached the challenge and the material applications that they devised. Tensei’s aim is to make sustainability a key part of material engineering and this was reflected brilliantly in the work of the students.

Ellie Purvis, Tensei