Decarbonising The Acrylic Value Chain Via Resource Circularity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering


The UK has long held a world-leading capability in acrylic technology. UK innovation in acrylic technology started with the world's first commercial production process in the 1930s. The earliest major application of acrylic materials was the substitution of glass with acrylic glazing in British World War II fighter planes, resulting in lighter weight and a significant improvement to pilot survivability when wounded by shrapnel. Lucite's UK presence includes an award-winning technology development capability at the Wilton Research Centre, and world scale manufacturing assets at Billingham and Newton Aycliffe. As durable materials, acrylic polymers have numerous advantageous properties, including excellent optical properties, resistance to weathering, imparting high performance to surface coatings, bio-compatibility, and the opportunity of recycling via depolymerisation. The increasing market size is due to both the heightened demand for acrylic glass and the expanding number of new applications. Given pMMA's versatility, the annual market will exceed $8 billion US dollars by 2025, growing at a rate of 8-9% per year. As demand continues to grow, the need for increased sustainability and fur-ther waste reductions is paramount. In 2012, the International Energy Agency designated meth-acrylic acid as a noteworthy target for the design of sustainable manufacturing [5]. Therefore, an extraordinary opportunity exists to decarbonise this value chain though UK technology leadership spanning the global stage.

The two principal research challenges of the Prosperity Partnership are:

(1) Decarbonise the acrylics value chain through resource circularity.
(2) Maintain and extend the UK's technical and manufacturing leadership in this sector through 21st century manufacturing excellence in the North East of England.

These UK advances in acrylic technology will have both national and global deployment capability, representing a first in class demonstration of decarbonisation through resource circularity in the bulk chemicals sector. This Prosperity Partnership will frame and catalyse further knowledge exchange, given that the anticipated global reduction in carbon intensity aligns with (1) UK legislation on attaining net zero carbon emissions by 2050, (2) the UK's Clean Growth grand challenge and (3) UKRI's Industrial Strategy policy of promoting decarbonisation, catalysing growth via resource circularity and the use of sustainable polymers.


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Description Decarbonising The Acrylic Value Chain Via Resource Circularity
Amount £1,740,036 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/V038052/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2021 
End 07/2026
Description Mitsubishi Chemical UK 
Organisation Mitsubishi Chemical Co Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Nottingham works with Lucite to develop metabolically engineered microorganisms for bio-based methymethacrylate production. We also develop fed-batch and continuous bioprocesses, and methods to solve problems with product toxicity. The work has been done through 7 CASE studentships (Lucite), 2 small projects (Lucite), the P2P grant and our IB catalyst projects, Detox and ConBioChem.
Collaborator Contribution Mitsubishi Chemical (previously Lucite International) aim to develop a bio-based route to manufacture methylmethacrylate. Lucite have funded 7 CASE studentships, 2 small projects, have collaborated on the P2P grant and are partners on our IB catalyst projects, Detox and ConBioChem.
Impact GR Eastham, G Stephens, A Yiakoumetti (2016). Process for the biological production of methacrylic acid and derivatives thereof. WO2016185211 A1 L Rossoni, SJ Hall, G Eastham, P Licence and G Stephens (2015) The putative mevalonate diphosphate decarboxylase from Picrophilus torridus is in reality a mevalonate-3-kinase with high potential for bio-production of isobutene. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 81, 2625-2634 doi: 10.1128/AEM.04033-14 GR Eastham, DW Johnson, I Archer, R Carr, J Webb, G Stephens (2015). A Process for Production of Methacrylic Acid and Derivatives Thereof. WO2015022496 Multidisciplinary: Chemistry, Biotechnology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology
Start Year 2011
Description University of St. Andrews 
Organisation University of St Andrews
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The University of Nottingham is collaborating closely with the University of St. Andrews via the DNP NMR facility at hosted at Nottingham.
Collaborator Contribution The University of St. Andrews is collaborating closely Mitsubishi Chemical on the chemo-catalytic development work package.
Impact No outputs as yet, given the grant only commenced in Aug21.
Start Year 2021