New renewable plastics from wood waste developed by Fraunhofer Institute

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In Germany, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology researchers developed a pathway to the synthesis of polyamides from terpenes, a side stream of cellulose production from wood. Polyamides have properties including high strength, abrasion resistance and resilience and being able to produce high performance materials from renewable resources is attracting industry interest.

The work on terpene conversion techniques has led to biobased polyamides with new properties and potential uses as biosurfactants, textiles and adhesives.  In particular, the researchers found that certain synthesized polyamides were highly transparent; opening up new product applications like ski goggles and helmet visors.

At present only manufactured in the laboratory, the researchers identified this pathway because it takes advantage of a waste stream that is currently burned and results in a plastic precursor that is not from petroleum sources.  The process combines bio- and chemo-catalytic reaction steps as a synthetic route to future production at industrial scale.