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Microplastics, Fitbits and marvels with mushrooms

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Polluting plastics, wearable tech and how to grow your own home with mushrooms give a flavour of how Brunel research excelled itself in 2017.

The damage plastics do to people and the planet is one research area where Brunel is a world leader. Brunel’s Institute of Environment, Health and Societies regularly spawns scores of amazing discoveries such as how farm-bound sludge teems with trillions of tiny plastic fibres.

BBC’s Countryfile team asked Brunel ecotoxicologist  Dr Chris Green to investigate biosolids – treated sludge spread to fertilise farmland. With Brunel’s Experimental Techniques Centre, he sifted microplastics from the organic material in biosolids  – alarming proof these tens of thousands of tiny plastic fibres have reached Britain’s farms.

A wider project from the Institute looking at how plastic gets into the environment helped spark a major feature documentary.  A Plastic Ocean, by BBC Blue Planet producer Jo Ruxton, is based on environmental science research at Brunel and aims to warn about the problem of polluting our seas.

Ecotoxicology Professor Susan Jobling, who leads the Institute explains the hormone-disrupting effects of chemicals linked to plastic pollution.

Sport, health and exercise science is another area of ground breaking Brunel research. Former England Lacrosse Captain Professor Celia Brackenridge, OBE pioneered child protection in sport and started the Women’s Sports Foundation and later, Brunel International Research Network for Athlete Welfare BIRNAW.

Fitbits and whether they actually put teenagers off excercise, is the latest Brunel sports research to make international headlines. Dr Charlotte Kerner found wearing the status symbol gadget for two months left teenagers feeling demotivated about physical activity once the novelty wore off.  Her study tracked 84 13 to 14 year-olds wearing the trackers for eight weeks.

Brunel’s Institute of Energy Futures is all about boosting energy efficiency in car making, the food industry andelectricity supply. Researchers there found a way to use mobile phone towers to collect and store energy. It could mean cheaper, cleaner energy for cut-off communities that pay more for their electricity.

Home to the mind-boggling Made in Brunel showcase, it’s no secret Brunel is a major player in design. Pushing the possibilities of zero-waste structures as an architectural alternative to bricks and mortar, Brunel student Aleksi Vesaluoma stirred excitement in summer 2017 with structures made from ‘mushroom sausages’.

Much too many more wonderful things to mention spring from Brunel research. See our news archive for a taster.

Reported by:

Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268176
hayley.jarvis@brunel.ac.uk