Feature Stories 2023: Protecting coastal ecosystems starts at UMassD

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Feature Stories 2023: Protecting coastal ecosystems starts at UMassD
Protecting coastal ecosystems starts at UMassD

When Mike Joyce’s team at PrimaLoft, Inc. needed a way to test its new biodegradable, recycled insulation and fabric, he knew just where to turn—UMass Dartmouth, his alma mater and an institution that has been on the cutting edge of textile technology since 1895.

As a 1985 graduate of UMass Dartmouth and a member of the College of Engineering advisory board, Mike Joyce, president/CEO of PrimaLoft, was already familiar with the research initiatives in the areas of sustainability and the Blue Economy that would make his alma mater the ideal place to launch a testing facility for PrimaLoft’s new biodegradable products. He pitched the idea of creating a lab at UMass Dartmouth that would benefit his company, students, the region, and the environment.

In September, the $1.2 million Biodegradability Laboratory opened at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology. The Biodegradability Laboratory supports the development of biodegradable and ocean-safe plastics and other materials by accelerating their path to market with a focus on increasing sustainability. The lab was created through a private-public partnership, including a $739,936 Massachusetts Technology Collaborative grant and a $450,000 investment from PrimaLoft, an industry leader in advanced material science that specializes in developing sustainable high-performance insulations and fabrics.

The lab provides essential research capacity for businesses in the field for evaluating plastic biodegradability, where it will measure biodegradation of products in environmental systems where plastic waste persists including landfills, oceans, wastewater, soil, and compost.

“This new laboratory is a true partnership that demonstrates the commitment of industry, government, and academia to protecting our region's economy and natural resources," said Jean VanderGheynst, dean of the College of Engineering and interim dean of SMAST. 

The lab will provide a critical service for PrimaLoft, but will also play a role in the goal to conduct research and advance the science in a location where textiles and marine science has been an integral part of the culture, history, and economy. “This is a wonderful opportunity to bring together a business with a specific need, and a university with the ability to bring it to life," said Joyce. “This lab is positioned to be one of the premier biodegradation labs in the United States and our hope is that this lab will be the nucleus of an expanding center for sustainable innovation and research in the SouthCoast region.”

“UMass Dartmouth is a perfect location for this new facility, to build on the university’s strong marine science and engineering focus, coupled with the SouthCoast’s strong heritage of textile innovation,” said Pat Larkin, deputy director of Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. 

This latest project advances UMass Dartmouth's faculty- and student-driven research in advanced materials, the Blue Economy, and sustainability. “UMass Dartmouth is committed to supporting the rapidly growing Blue Economy by conducting research in important areas such as increasing ocean sustainability, monitoring ecosystems, producing renewable energy, and developing new marine technologies,” said Chancellor Mark Fuller.