Creating a novel enzymatic-based bio-polymerisation process

Is it possible to increase the sustainability of the industrial processes for producing polymers, while maintaining or increasing the competitiveness of enterprises? This question arose within the FP7 PEOPLE project (Blue4Glue) when an enzymatic process was discovered, used by marine organisms. These organisms ‘produce’ polymers in a much simpler way than industry does in classical chemistry, with fewer process steps. The BIO-MIMETIC project aims to transfer this new scientific knowledge into a blueprint for a novel (pre-)industrial enzymatic-based bio-polymerisation process.

BIO-MIMETIC wants to develop a process that firstly transforms biomass into new-bio-based polymers.

Overview of the BIO-MIMETIC project

The new PPO-based enzymatic process was discovered by Fraunhofer Institute (IFAM) and Procter and Gamble. The BIO-MIMETIC project will attempt to use the discovery to create a new bio-polymerisation process. Different partners work together in this project:

  • IFAM and UNITOV are research partners with experience in enzymatic transformation and bio-based synthetic polymers.
  • Dyadic (enzymes), CIMV (biomass transformation into bio-chemistry) and CULGI (computational modelling of bio-chemical processes) are expert SMEs.

All these partners help develop the process that firstly transforms biomass (lignin) into new bio-based polymers (pseudo peptides). These were used to create respectively:

  • bio-conjugated copolymers, that will be tested in detergents (by P&G);
  • bio-cross-linked adhesive gels, to be experimented in antiaging cosmetics and in bio-textiles preparation (by an SME cosmetic producer MAVI).

The project has enormous potential environmental benefits:

  • over 124 kton/year less toxic solvents to produce chemicals;
  • over 1 billion kWh of energy savings (because it is a room temperature process);
  • a drastically reduced CO2 footprint; meaning the project will replace 8000 Mtons of petrochemical based deposition aides and in the future substitute a large amount of phenol and phenolic derivatives, which are used to produce chemical intermediates for a myriad of applications.

Objectives of the project: develop and market industrial enzymatic process

  • The project will design and develop a blueprint for an industrial enzymatic process for the production of bio-based polymers, mimicking the processes discovered in marine animals and insects. This will consist of novel processes for the transformation of biomass feedstock and bio-catalytic routes via enzymes, to create polyphenolic polymers as water-resistant adhesives.
  • The project will develop and validate the performance of bio-mimicked phenolic polymers for application in household products (detergents), new bio-based cosmetics (such as emulsions for beauty care use) and textiles, meeting established quality and cost parameters.
  • The project will quantify the environmental benefits and economic prospects (using life cycle analyses and life cycle costing) of the intermediate results (bio-processes) and final results (bio-based products). This will take into account the whole value chain from biomass transformation towards integration into end-user products, and make these data available for SMEs in the wider bio-based product market through an SME oriented life cycle analysis tool (cCALC).
  • The project will develop a business plan for each of the value-chain partners, based on demonstrated benefits, and taking into account the wider application potential for the bio-based polymers. As such, BIO-MIMETIC exactly meets the ECO-INNOVATION Call objectives, as it aims to develop and validate a “new generation of technologies which, designed through methodologies of sustainability assessment, maximise eco-efficiency and – mimicking nature – reduce the pressure on resources”.

Our involvement in the BIO-MIMETIC project

We have several responsibilities within the BIO-MIMETIC project: