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Delving into Biodistillation

Autumn 2019 saw us dipping our toes into the world of extracting chemicals from trees through biodistillation.  Having failed chemistry at School we are instead working with Sheffield University chemistry department who ran a series of undergraduate experimental workshops with us.  In year 1 we extracted Eucalyptus oil from a variety of Eucalypt types growing in Devon to compare the potential of different species.

We hope this will be the start of a long collaboration with Sheffield and in the world of biodistillation.  Trees have hugely varied and complex chemical composition that lend themselves to many high-value uses in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and other industries.  It isn’t something confined to tropical timber but our own species and forests could provide too.

This isn’t new, it used to be called “naval stores” when shipping and timber were the primary means of moving and building. If all those chemicals we now derive from oil-based raw material could again be made from tree extractives there are huge changes to be made in how we view “quality” in wood.  We firmly believe there is a bridge to be made between “low-value” standing trees and high-value chemical products using digital processes and distributed manufacturing technologies.  In the future thinnings from those ecologically focussed plantings of the past thirty years could end up being the most valuable of crops allowing us the change the way we manage our forests.

More recently we’ve made good connections with Bio Sep, leaders in the this new field of bio-refinery and hope we can work with them more in the future to explore this new and huge segment of the market.


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