Dr. Michelle Harnett

AuthorDr. Michelle Harnett

Michelle is a science communicator working for Scion in Rotorua. A recent graduate of Otago University's science communication programme, she is using her background in chemistry, product development and technology transfer to share the ground-breaking research that carried out at the country's Crown research institute for forestry and biobased forest products.

Growing a biofuelled Aotearoa New Zealand

Treesel isn’t a word – yet. But tree diesel powering the country is within our reach according to the New Zealand Biofuels Roadmap, a new study by Scion bioenergy specialists. Increasing the use of biofuels in New Zealand will bring benefits. Our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be reduced and it will be easier to meet international commitments such as the Paris Agreements, and New Zealand’s...

Biomass in bioplastics

Cow poo, squashed grapes and smelly sea shells don’t sound quite as tasty as wine, cheese and seafood, but they may be just valuable. With mankind using resources faster than they can be replaced we can’t afford to keep making stuff then throwing it away. One solution is to treat waste as a resource, one of the main principles behind the concept of circular economies. Bioeconomies, which utilise...

New glue: A New Zealand solution to a sticky problem

Bio-based adhesives have been around for a long time. The threat of sending old horses (and people) to the glue factory reflects the centuries-old practice of boiling down animal carcasses to extract collagen, or glue. The oldest known wooden artefacts held together by animal glues are thought to be around 8000 years old. The messy, and icky, process of rendering dead animals into a protein soup...

Tannin in the sun

Wiggle, wobble, crack! And you are on your back staring at the sky. Most of us have seen a leg on an old plastic chair break and tumble someone to the ground. It makes for a funny story to tell at the next barbecue and also vividly illustrates that the sun can break down plastics to the point of eventual failure. Exposure to sunlight damages many materials. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation degrades...

Bats, birds and biodiversity in planted forests

Radiata pine forests stretch across nearly two million hectares of New Zealand. Many find them dark, monotonous and sterile, but appearances can be deceiving. Native flora and fauna, including endangered and threatened species, happily make their homes in planted forests. At least 118 threatened indigenous species are found in the mix of exotic forest and native ecosystems remnants that make up...

Accelerating the development of biobased products

Confocal microscopy showing lignin in Radiata Pine cells walls.

Wanted – skilled and enthusiastic chemist to work one year in New Zealand then another in Belgium – the ad for a postdoc that fired the imagination of more than 80 hopefuls around the world. The new position marks the beginning of a unique collaboration between New Zealand Crown research institute Scion and Belgium-based VITO (Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek) to accelerate the...

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