Many construction materials such as wood panels contain toxic binders. These binders are persistant pollutants and carcinogenic as they are made of the hazardous formaldehyde-based polymer resins. There is a strong growing market demand for these safe bio-based and bio-degradable industrial (polymer) products, as there is no bio-based thermoset binder available on the market today.
An invention of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is a polymer called Plantics-GX or simply GX. This is a polymer resin that is safe to use. It is 100% bio-based, recyclable, and if it enters in the environment it is bio-degradable. Moreover, it is a strong material and has very good binding properties. The spin-off company Plantics B.V. aims to further develop the production process, commercialize this invention and develop applications together with strong (market) partners. The monomers that are used for the process (partly waste from bio-refinery) of producing GX are abundantly available and very cost competitive. The product will have a significantly smaller carbon footprint than the type of binders that are used now. With 0.52-0.60 kg CO2 per kg product the carbon footprint of GX is 5-10 times lower than that of existing thermoset binders. This means that it possibly saves 80%-90% on CO2 emissions. The potential for replacement of current binders and thus CO2 reduction is huge. In Europe alone over 5 million tons per year of thermoset binders are used in construction materials. Plantics aims for a 20% market-share as a midterm target.
Scaling up GX resin
CirBind aims to scale-up the current lab-scale production of the GX resin to a 50-100 kg per batch plant at TRL5. The feedback from three high potential binder applications, partly in an industrial environment, is essential to adjust the production process in order to design and engineer a flexible production plant. Therefore this will be done in close cooperation with knowledge institutes and end-users of the selected applications. The resin will induce a step change in the production of this unique bio-based thermoset polymer and it will also be the first introduction of applications in the Netherlands and Europe.
Focusing on multiple aspects
The project entails both fundamental and application-oriented research combined with expert knowledge and the input from research institutes and end users. The project focusses on various aspects: on scaling up the GX bio-resin production; on the fundamental understanding of the chemistry of the polymerization for different formulations of the bio- resin and the interaction with other materials; on the development and testing of a specific binder application (one for each end-user). The ISPT will take care of the dissemination and the overall project coordination together with Plantics as project leader.
The project is executed in the Netherlands and Finland. The Cirbind project kicked off in May of 2018 together with the partners Plantics, UvA, Stenden university, Everuse, Millvision, KCPK, Koskisen and ISPT. It will be concluded in October 2020. The project is co-financed by an allowance of TKI-Energy of the Topconsortia for Knowledge and Innovation (TKI’s) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.