CHAMPION – Developing new circular materials from safe bio-based building blocks

The Bio-based Industries (BBI) project CHAMPION aims to develop new, safe, bio-based circular performance materials with well-defined end-of-life scenarios by using reversible aza-Michael coupling chemistry.

The majority of conventional synthetic materials are not fit for effective recycling, and when released into the environment they are often insufficiently degradable, giving rise to plastic soup and persistent microplastics, for example. This is in conflict with the EU’s green credentials and its ambitions to create a circular economy. The EU BBI project CHAMPION addresses these circular economy ambitions by developing new, safe and circular, bio-based materials and products using reversible aza-Michael chemistry.

Bio-based building blocks

Most of the current synthetic performance materials are based on non-renewable fossil feedstocks, while many of the building blocks (such as isocyanates or bisphenol A) have human and eco toxicity issues. Furthermore, the ensuing materials are often non-recyclable and almost always non-biodegradable. This means that, while highly effective during the lifetime of the product, at the end-of-life stage these products are mostly landfilled or incinerated, and when released in the environment they cause long-term problems due to their persistence.

Overall concept of CHAMPION
Overall concept of CHAMPION

CHAMPION will develop new bio-based building blocks, including novel bio-based diamines that will be tested for human and eco toxicity in order to assure their safety (i.e. safe by design). Using so-called aza-Michael coupling chemistry new performance materials for a variety of applications will be developed, including structural adhesives, automotive interior surfaces, and home care products.

The developed materials will be tested for biodegradability, as well as chemical recyclability, thereby assuring that they are circular by design. This means that for CHAMPION products the intended end-of-life scenarios will be recycling, digestion, and biodegradability, significantly reducing the uncontrolled emissions of greenhouse gases, persistent substances, and plastics/microplastics into the environment.

The project

CHAMPION is a three-year BBI project with a budget of EUR 5.7m, combining the expertise of fourteen partners ranging from knowledge institutes, to SMEs and large industries from six European countries. By combining chemical and polymer synthesis, catalysis, early human and eco toxicity screening, application testing, biodegradability testing, conceptual process design, and life cycle analysis in an integrated fashion, CHAMPION aims to achieve the following objectives:

  • Produce a library of more than 50 novel bio-derivable materials using the aza-Michael addition reaction for chain extension, modification, and curing
  • Increase the environmental and economic performance of the novel polymers by developing biodegradable alternatives and establishing an innovative testing strategy to rapidly evaluate toxicological safety issues of candidate products
  • Produce and submit to industrial partners for testing four novel bio-based polymer candidates with high performance for home care formulation additives, structural adhesives, coatings, and automotive interior surfaces
  • Increase the overall resource efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the targeted applications
  • Validate new and improved processing technologies and evaluate the most advanced bio-based polyester candidates in environmental, social, and economic terms, with results benchmarked against the conventional petrochemical-based alternatives
  • Communicate with key audiences and stakeholders and gather feedback from policymakers and market actors along the entire value chain.