Novel polymers from terpenes

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry

Abstract

Our society is completely dependent upon polymers (plastics) in every facet of our lives; from clothes to computers to novel composites, cars and cosmetics. A key question is how can we continue to use and consume polymers in the future? In 2010 every citizen of the USA discarded 140 kg of plastic into land-fill and those figures are similar and rising in many other societies around the globe. As more economies move towards Western levels of consumption, we simply will not be able to continue to use polymers in the same way. There are alternative polymers that are derived from renewable resources, and learning to make and use these will have a significant positive impact and will help to alleviate the issues of landfill, particularly when the renewable polymers are degradable. But despite all the hype and expectation, renewable polymers currently account for less than 5% of all polymers produced commercially. This figure is growing but the problem is that most renewable polymers simply do not perform as well as the traditional commodity polymers that are derived from oil.

In this proposal we focus upon utilising terpenes to form a range of valuable new polymers. Terpenes are derived from citrus waste ( eg. d-limonene from orange peel) and from wood waste (eg. the alpha- and beta-pinenes) and are already available on the multi-tonne scale and sold into markets from fragrances to aromas and healthcare. There have been significant efforts in the past to create polymers directly from terpenes because their structures contain alkene moieties that appear to offer the opportunity for polymerisation via free radical routes under simple, readily accessible conditions that could easily be scaled. Unfortunately, extensive studies have yielded only poor quality low molecular weight or cross-linked polymers that have not found commercial utility.

Now, we will build on recent proof of concept studies at Nottingham that could overcome this log-jam. We have developed a simple and versatile approach to produce new terpene based monomers that can be easily "dropped-in" to existing commercial polymerisation processes. Our approach offers the possibility to use readily available free radical and controlled polymerisation routes to create new polymers and co-polymers that can be tailored for application across the commodity and specialty plastics landscape. To achieve these goals we have assembled a multidisciplinary academic team that brings together all of the key skills and expertise needed to deliver these new monomers and polymers, and to characterise their properties to determine suitable application areas. In addition, we will utilise strong input, support and advice from industry partners from across the polymer sector to target the new materials towards focussed potential applications and products.

Planned Impact

The Polymers Sector is already valued at $1.6 trillion and dominates the chemicals industry, making up around 80% of its output. Most polymers and plastics are derived from oil; but the renewable polymers industry is predicted to start to grow rapidly. The market for renewable chemicals is set to grow worldwide from $57.5 billion in 2012 to $83.4 billion by 2018 mainly due to consumer push for environmentally friendly feedstocks and low production costs of bio-based chemicals (ref 1). Currently only 50,000 tonnes of renewable polymers are manufactured in Europe each year, but by 2020 it is likely that renewable polymers will account for at least 10% of the market (ref 2) leading to a significant commercial opportunities.

There are strong drivers towards developing new approaches to renewable raw materials (ref 3). Our proposal will contribute to provide new advantages e.g.
- stronger industrial competitiveness,
- raw materials diversification
- quicker routes to sustainability
- efficient and sustainable use of natural resources
- rapid development of new consumer markets.

Bio-based products are of high societal and economic interest due to several positive factors (ref 3):
- use of renewable and expandable resources
- less dependency on limited and increasingly expensive fossil resources
- the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (carbon neutral / low carbon impact)
- the potential for sustainable industrial production
- potentially better recovery and recycling options
- often low toxicity
- often high bio-degradability or compostability
- less resource-intensive production (water, energy, waste)
- potentially improved population health
- support to rural development
- increased industrial competitiveness through innovative eco-efficient bio-based products

As well as being more sustainable, it is also vital that the UK chemistry using industries grow. This is formalised through the Chemistry Growth Strategy Group with key discussions at UK government level with the aim of pushing forward strategies to grow the UK chemicals industry and its contribution to our economy. A key statement in their report is that "By 2030, the UK chemical industry will have further reinforced its position as the country's leading manufacturing exporter and enabled the chemistry-using industries to increase their Gross Value Added contribution to the UK economy by 50%" with "smart manufacturing" being one of the three priorities highlighted to achieve their vision. (ref 4)

Our Impact Plan is designed with our committed industry partners with decades of expertise in commercial polymer systems. We will show that our new approach has the potential to introduce renewable resources, save energy, reduce costs and broaden product portfolios.

A key aspect of our approach will be to disseminate the major outputs obtained during our project to a wider industry grouping. An important aspect of our impact plan is to put in place these dissemination routes using both our own internal Business Science Fellows and to work closely with skilled commercial facilitators to the chemicals industry and also targeted polymer sector professionals who have written strongly supportive letters to demonstrate their engagement with our project and our new monomers and polymers.

Our proposal is timely. There are stringent demands upon the sector, and there is a strong industry pull to develop new technologies that can deliver new renewable materials that can lower carbon footprints. This means we will be implementing our pathways to impact and manufacture to a very receptive commercial audience.

1. www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/renewable-chemical-274.html
2. www.errma.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4&Itemid=8
3. www.ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/biotechnology/files/docs/bio_based_from_promise_to_market_en.pdf
4. www.cia.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/Growth%20Strategy%20FINAL.PDF
 
Description This grant is still active - we are making good progress and have developed some interesting early stage materials.
Exploitation Route We are working with industry- two companies in p[articular have shown great interest in the new monomers and polymers that we have prepared
Sectors Chemicals,Healthcare

 
Description We have presented in the Public Science Festioval "Pint of Science"
First Year Of Impact 2018
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER PARTNERSHIP No KTP010677
Amount £226,377 (GBP)
Funding ID No KTP010677 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2020
 
Description Terpenes with L'Oreal 
Organisation DSM
Department DSM Research
Country Netherlands 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have developed new polymers from Nature that are of interest to various companies. These have been derived directly from our research project
Collaborator Contribution The partners to differing degrees are carrying out tests on the new materials we have made. The information is early stage and confidential
Impact no formal outcomes - early stage applications testing
Start Year 2016
 
Description Terpenes with L'Oreal 
Organisation Kaneka Belgium N.V.
Country Belgium 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have developed new polymers from Nature that are of interest to various companies. These have been derived directly from our research project
Collaborator Contribution The partners to differing degrees are carrying out tests on the new materials we have made. The information is early stage and confidential
Impact no formal outcomes - early stage applications testing
Start Year 2016
 
Description Terpenes with L'Oreal 
Organisation L'Oreal (Paris)
Country France 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have developed new polymers from Nature that are of interest to various companies. These have been derived directly from our research project
Collaborator Contribution The partners to differing degrees are carrying out tests on the new materials we have made. The information is early stage and confidential
Impact no formal outcomes - early stage applications testing
Start Year 2016
 
Description Terpenes with L'Oreal 
Organisation Synthomer plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have developed new polymers from Nature that are of interest to various companies. These have been derived directly from our research project
Collaborator Contribution The partners to differing degrees are carrying out tests on the new materials we have made. The information is early stage and confidential
Impact no formal outcomes - early stage applications testing
Start Year 2016
 
Description BBC TV interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact TV interview describing the impact of plastics on the environment
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://tinyurl.com/y77sg6vo