In 2017 Kim Pickering became the first woman to win the Scott Medal for her work developing sustainable composite materials out of fibres such as hemp, wood or flax.
Pickering studied materials science in England, then moved to the University of Waikato in 1994, at a time when there were only three people working in engineering there. Over the years, as the department grew, Pickering built a reputation incorporating sustainable fibres into composite materials – things that combine fibres in a matrix, such as particle board or fibre glass. Such materials usually require high energy input and are often not recyclable or biodegradable.
Pickering has pioneered a heat-setting corn protein matrix which, when combined with a natural fibre, can biodegrade – one potential use is plant pots that break down in the soil. She has also developed a resin made from biofuel waste which has been patented and adopted for commercial use.
Image at right: The Scott Medal.