British Ecological Society roots out Swansea expertise for RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Collaboration between Swansea University’s Colleges of Engineering and Science, and the British Ecological Society (BES), has produced 3D printed models of the root systems of plants, which were displayed at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Tree rootDr Dan Forman, who leads the Swansea Ecology Research Team (SERT) in the Department of Biosciences, was approached by the BES for assistance with the printed models.

Dr Forman, who is the Welsh representative on the Society’s education, training and careers committee, in turn sought expert advice from Dr Daniel J. Thomas, Senior Research Officer in the College of Engineering’s Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating (WCPC).

Dr Thomas’ expertise was then employed to produce the 3D printed models of the root systems of plants from images, which are made from plant-based materials and were small enough for the show’s visitors to handle.

Dr Daniel J. Thomas said: “The WCPCengineered Ecoflex is an eco-friendly material and an alternative to traditional thermoplastics, which usually contain a number of environmentally damaging synthetics.

The polymer made from fermented corn starch forms a lactic acid compound, which is subsequently polymerised. The idea is that plants can feed off the sugars within the polymer, which will ultimately break down the structure.”

Dr Dan Forman said: “This is an excellent example of the synergy and benefit of cross-disciplinary working at Swansea University, showcased at this international event.”