Biomaterials: AkzoNobel to cooperate with Itaconix; Avalon to research 5-HMF for formaldehyde substitute

Belgian firm AkzoNobel has signed akzonobel a framework joint development agreement with speciality chemicals company Itaconix to explore opportunities for the production of biobased polymers.

With this agreement, AkzoNobel will pursue the development and commercialisation of biobased polymers. Itaconix will contribute a proprietary polymerisation technology to turn itaconic acid - obtained from sugars through fermentation - into polymers.

Itaconix is a US subsidiary of Revolymer, which is also working with AkzoNobel on a marine coatings project.

Meanwhile, in conjunction with the Institute for Materials and Wood Technology at the Bern University of Applied Sciences, avalon Avalon Industries is launching a research project to replace formaldehyde in phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resins with biobased, non-toxic platform chemical 5-HMF (5-Hydroxymethylfurfural). Government-sponsored by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI), the project will build on the positive results in a similar research project, run by Avalon Industries parent company AVA-CO2, to develop non-toxic urea-HMF resins.

The formaldehyde-based resin manufacturing industry has been facing an increasing challenge since formaldehyde was classified as carcinogenic and mutagenic in the 6th adaptation to technical and scientific progress of the CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) EU directive in June 2014. This classification has far-reaching and immediate consequences for a variety of business sectors, especially in the furniture industry.

Formaldehyde is a key material for the chemical industry, serving as the source for many chemical compounds. The EU produces approximately 10 million tonnes/year and 47 million tonnes of formaldehyde are produced worldwide. A large proportion of synthesised formaldehyde is used in the production of glues and impregnating resins for wood-based materials. Adhesive resins are used in the manufacture of particle boards, plywood panels and chipboards, where the furniture industry is one of the main users.

The research project, ‘Development of a formaldehyde-free phenol type adhesive system for the manufacturing of plywood’, aims to come up with a formaldehyde-free, sustainable and non-toxic adhesive for industrial use in the wood-processing industry. The project will also investigate the replacement of phenol with lignin in order to develop 100% biobased lignin-HMF resins.

5-HMF is a biobased platform chemical containing both an aldehyde and an alcohol functional group. The special characteristics of 5-HMF offer many applications in different industries. For example, the oxidation of 5-HMF to FDCA (furandicarboxylic acid) forms the basis for the manufacture of PEF (polyethylene furanoate). PEF is a bio-based substitute for petroleum-based PET and can, amongst other applications, be used in the manufacture of bottles for soft drinks or for food packaging. It can also be used in the textile industry or the medical technology sector. The research project may lead to various ways to employ 5-HMF as a substitute for the carcinogenic formaldehyde.

Swiss firm Avalon says its game-changing Hydrothermal Processing (HTP) technology makes it the global leader in the industrial production of biobased platform chemical 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural (5-HMF). A renewable alternative to petroleum-based materials, 5-HMF is used in a broad range of applications in the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries. Once large-scale production is achieved, 5-HMF will become a crucial building block for novel packaging materials such as Polyethylene Furanoate (PEF) as well as biobased resins and adhesives. Since 2014, Avalon Industries' subsidiary AVA Biochem has been producing high-purity 5-HMF for the research and speciality chemicals markets.


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