Polymer synthesis and polymer modification

Biobased monomers (simple biobased chemicals) can be converted into polymers using various polymerisation techniques. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research works specifically on the conversion of biobased monomers into biobased polymers that can be used, for instance, as a basis for biobased plastics.

Thanks to our facilities and knowledge of polymerisation techniques we are able to develop industrial upscalable processes for sustainable polymers.

From biobased monomers to biobased polymers

Monomers that are isolated from renewable raw materials such as biomass can have the same characteristics as current petroleum-based monomers (‘drop-in’ chemicals), but they can also have different characteristics. In the latter case it is of the essence to develop knowledge in order to process these monomers into polymers and eventual materials. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has gained a great deal of experience in renewable monomers such as diacids, diols and diisocyanates. We use various polymerisation techniques, including polycondensation, ‘ring opening’ (metathesis) polymerisation and (controlled) radical polymerisation to create biobased polymers from biobased monomers. The resulting synthesised materials such as biobased plastics are analysed in our laboratories for their thermal and mechanical characteristics, among other properties. We can also test important issues such as the heat and moisture resistance of materials. Polymerisations can be realised on very small (1.5 grams) to very large (1.5 kg) scales. It is also possible to evaluate various processing techniques including extrusion and injection moulding.

Predicting characteristics

Once we have processed monomers into biobased polymers they are evaluated for potentially interesting characteristics such as thermal (Tg and Tm) and mechanical (E-modulus, impact resistance) characteristics. Our expertise and experience also allows us to partially predict these properties for our clients, considerably reducing the development trajectory from monomer to polymer. We regularly work with the Dutch Polymer Institute (DPI) and are involved in various research programmes such as the Biobased Performance Materials (BPM) programme. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research also works on commission for companies in studying the potential of biobased monomers and polymers and providing advice on the transition to biobased alternatives to replace current materials.

Renewable polymers for the industry

In our laboratories we use the latest synthesis equipment, such as polymerisation reactors. Experts from various backgrounds, including organic and catalytic chemists and process technologists, work together on sustainable polymerisation techniques. Leveraging on our facilities and expertise, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is able to reduce development trajectories and develop industrially realistic processes for renewable monomers and polymers for our clients. The developed polymers can be processed and analysed with industrially relevant equipment.