Biomass breakthrough unlocks world of possibilities

More futuristic functionality could soon start to appear in our products thanks to a breakthrough innovation which involves a more sustainable method for making resins.

It’s all down to research we’ve been conducting in collaboration with the Dutch Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC CBBC). The new process uses bio-based monomers to make resins, which are traditionally oil-based.

Requiring just UV light, oxygen and renewable raw materials, patent applications have already been filed for resins and coatings made with monomers derived from sugar derivatives isolated from biomass.

“There’s no doubt we’re on the verge of progressing to the next level of coatings technology, thanks to this fantastic example of collaborative innovation in action,” explains Klaas Kruithof, AkzoNobel’s Chief Technology Officer. “We’re opening up a new future for paints and coatings by using sustainable building blocks that will enable us to explore and develop some really exciting functionalities for our customers.”

Person with chemistry model of molecules (photo)
A coating from nature (graphic)

Most of the research has been taking place at the University of Groningen – where the team is led by professor in organic chemistry and Nobel Prize winner, Ben Feringa, and PhD student, George Hermens. “I’m extremely pleased with these game-changing results,” says Feringa (pictured above). “They show that a material for coatings can be produced from biomass using a sustainable chemical process.”

Having started in 2018, the research project will now focus on optimizing the monomers so they can be made in a more efficient way and on a larger scale. “We’ve still got a long way to go in terms of exploring the scope of the technology, but it will almost certainly define the future of our products,” continues Kruithof. “By 2040 or 2050, there’s also a good chance we might only be using bio-based monomers in our resin production, which will help us to reduce the overall of our products.”

SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production (icon)SDG 13 – Climate action (icon)SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals (icon)

Aligned with SDG 12, 13 and 17 (see the Our approach to sustainable business section).

Carbon footprint

The total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused during a defined period of a product’s lifecycle. It is expressed in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide equivalents CO2(e) emitted.