Stefan Krawielitzki, from AVA Biochem, speaks on this interview about their main role in the CATCO2NVERS Project, their expectations and the work they will carry out.

What is the role of AVA Biochem in CATCO2NVERS?

The aim of AVA Biochem’s work within the project is to validate the monomers FDME, LA, and CCFAMEs, produced in former work packages concerning their suitability as building blocks for the corresponding polymers PEF, PLA, and NIPU for various applications. AVA Biochem will produce samples of these polymers for different applications using known polymerization reactions, possibly adapted to the respective monomer purity, and will investigate and evaluate their properties with commonly known methods. In particular, the influence of several key factors on the polymerization reaction will be evaluated.

Can you talk a bit about the different applications of the three polymers AVA Biochem is producing?

Depending on the intended future use of the polymers, the purity of the starting monomers FDME, LA, and CCFAME plays a decisive role, which requires special attention. The samples received from the project partners must therefore first be carefully examined for impurities, especially chain stopping impurities and coloring impurities.  Appropriate purification processes will be developed to make the substances suitable for the subsequent polymerisation reactions.

The type of polymerisation method: polycondensation in the melt state (avoiding the use of solvents) in one or two steps, possibly post-polycondensation (SSP) as a third step to further increase the molecular weight will be carried out.

The need for the addition of antioxidants and their selection. The use of antioxidants is common in this type of reaction and their necessity and selection of the most appropriate ones must be carried out.

The type of catalyst: Several commercial homogeneous metal catalysts, such as titanium and tin alkoxides (titanium(IV) isopropoxide, tin(II)-2-ethylhexanoate and dibutyltin(IV) oxide) are considered among others for special needs.

What is the main innovation these polymers will bring?

FDME is a very valuable platform chemical of great interest in the synthesis of the next-generation biopolymers such as polyethylene furanoate (PEF) or polybutylene furanoate (PBF). While some biopolymers are already in the market, other ones as PEF are emerging. PEF is expected to enter the market in 2023, with great expectations due to the proven enhanced barrier properties to oxygen and water. With this promising market scenario, AVA Biochem will formulate the target FDME obtained from CO2 into the polymerization of PEF for the production of packaging material, bottles, films, etc and thus contributing to further adopt PEF as material in the bioplastics sector.

LA is used in the production of polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable polymer with a worldwide market rate growing at a rate of 18.7% per year. PLA large application in the packaging industry is projected to expand the growth of the LA market. Global LA market consumption has been growing steadily since 2008 and the global production capacity is >300 Ktons per year. PLA is applied in biomedicine, automotive, electronics, and other segments. This large variety of applications of LA shows clearly the potential diversification the bio-based industries can achieve by acquiring technology for conversion of CO2 to LA.

CC are an attractive group of chemicals for the synthesis of renewable polymers like polycarbonates (PC) and polyurethanes (PU). The five main CC with higher market applications are ethylene carbonate, propylene carbonate, styrene carbonate, and glycerol carbonate. All of them are very attractive for several applications as industrial green solvents and lubricants, electrolytes for Li-ion batteries, for the manufacturing of polymeric materials, and as monomers for the production of polycarbonates used in the bioplastic sector. All of these sectors have remarkable expected market growth in Europe. For example, CC, especially containing fatty acids, as the CCFAMEs synthesized in the project has a strong market uptake potential in Europe as there is no dependence on imports and its expected annual growth is over 1%.

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