Biobased resins or thermosets are synthetic materials that consist partially or completely of renewable raw materials and which can no longer be melted down after a single hardening step (chemical reaction). We work on the development of biobased resins using natural oils, carbohydrates and natural phenol compounds (such as tannin and lignin).
Most commercially available biobased resins are biobased up to a maximum of fifty per cent. Increasing this percentage while retaining useful properties requires adapting the biobased raw materials and/or applying alternative chemical reactions. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research develops and optimises biobased raw materials and alternative chemical reactions.
Resins or thermosets constitute a wide class of synthetics that are used in composites, binders (for plate materials), adhesives, inks, paints and coatings. Well-known (synthetic) resins are polyester resins, epoxy resins, phenol formaldehyde resins and polyurethane resins. A characteristic of resins during the process of creating a product is that an irreversible chemical reaction occurs due to the influence of, for instance, UV or as a result of blending two reactive components.
The development of biobased resins comprises various approaches. It is possible to replace a (large) part of the traditional building blocks of a resin by identical building blocks based on biomass. For example, glycerol that is released in the production of biodiesel can be converted into epichlorohydrin, acrylic acid, or propylene glycol, for the production of epoxy, acrylic, and unsaturated polyester resins, respectively. In addition to these ‘drop-in’ solutions it is also possible to make new building blocks for resins from biomass. This could involve, for example, epoxidised vegetable oils for epoxy resins, phenols from lignin for phenol formaldehyde resins, or sugar derivatives such as polyol in polyurethane resins.
Interesting mix of knowledge and experience
Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has a unique expertise in the field of biobased resins. This results from our experience in developing building blocks for biobased plastics, the development of biobased adhesives, paints, coatings and inks, and our knowledge of natural raw materials such as vegetable oils and lignin. An example is an alkyd resin we developed based on sugar and vegetable fatty acid derivatives. We also developed new biobased epoxy resins for products such as cast floors or coatings based on epoxidised oils and dimerised fatty acids. Our specific expertise in the field of raw materials such as fatty acids, carbohydrates and lignin is of great value to the development of new biobased resins.