100 percent biobased, transparent, and thermally stable polyamide



The natural substance 3-carene is a component of turpentine oil, a waste stream of the production of cellulose from wood. Up to now, this by-product has been incinerated for the most part. Fraunhofer researchers are using new catalytic processes to convert 3-carene into building blocks for biobased plastics. The new polyamides are not only transparent, but also have a high thermal stability.

Plastics are a useful alternative to glass or metal for a wide range of applications. Polyamides play an important role in the manufacture of high-quality structural components, as they are not only impact- and abrasion-resistant, but also resistant to many chemicals and solvents. Today, polyamides are mainly produced from crude oil.

A sustainable alternative: monomers from wood waste

The Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB is investigating a sustainable alternative for the production of new high-performance plastics from terpenes found in resin-rich wood. The natural substances are available from conifers such as pine, larch or spruce. In the production of pulp, in which wood is broken down to separate the cellulose fibers, the terpenes are isolated in large quantities as a by-product, turpentine oil.

In the joint project "TerPa – Terpenes as building blocks for biobased polyamides", researchers at the Straubing BioCat branch of Fraunhofer IGB have now succeeded in optimizing the synthesis of lactams from the terpene 3-carene and converting them into a scalable, competitive process on a potentially industrial scale. Lactams are building blocks for the production of polyamides. The Straubing experts could already show that terpenes such as alpha-pinene , limonene and 3-carene are suitable raw materials for the synthesis of biobased lactams.

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