Search
Close this search box.

Biopolymers & Performance Biomaterials

Industrial fermentation to produce biopolymers and performance biomaterials

Biosynthesized by living organisms or produced from renewable resources, biopolymers have gained significant popularity with their bio-based nature. Biopolymers and bio-sourced chemicals can act as substitutes or additions to petroleum-based materials, resulting in a wide range of promising applications.

Industrial fermentation plays an important role in producing bio-based chemicals or monomers, used as raw material for biopolymers and performance biomaterials production. Firstly, microorganisms, such as yeast, bacteria, or fungi convert sugars from natural sources into molecules of interest. In a second step, these bio-based molecules are purified.

Some biopolymers can be directly produced by fermentation such as polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), which is a biodegradable biopolymer used in plastics applications. Other biopolymer production processes start with the production, via fermentation, of a monomer that is purified and then polymerized to form the biopolymer of interest. Finally, genetic engineering techniques make it possible to modify microorganisms to produce specific biopolymers or specialty chemicals used to produce performance biomaterials.

Facing sustainability challenges of polymer and specialty chemicals industries 

The polymer industry covers a broad range of products, including plastics, resins, coatings, elastomers, and adhesives, among others used in many sectors, such as packaging, aerospace, automotive, electronics, and healthcare. The specialty chemicals industry combines knowledge of chemistry, material science, and engineering to create high-performance materials that meet the specific needs of various industries.

Industrial fermentation can be a solution to many of the sustainability challenges faced by the chemical industry and move towards a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future. Polymers made from the fermentation of renewable resources often have a reduced carbon intensity when compared to traditional fossil-based alternatives. These bio-based polymers and materials help companies address current regulations and environmental policies.

Moreover, the eco-design and, for most of them, biodegradability of biopolymers and biomaterials greatly contribute to the development of a sustainable circular economy.

The production of new biopolymers and biomaterials also provides an opportunity to develop products with improved performance, durability, and reduced toxicity. As an example, bio-sourced adhesives and coatings can limit emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Solutions contributing to renewable performance biomaterials

Using industrial fermentation for advanced material production offers a significant benefit as it allows the utilization of diverse feedstocks based on their availability in a region. Some key examples of biopolymers and biomaterials produced through industrial fermentation are:

Bioplastics

Bioplastics represent a diverse range of materials with distinct properties and applications, spearheading the transformation of the plastics industry. These innovative materials have two significant advantages over traditional plastics: they use renewable biomass resources, leading to potential carbon neutrality, and they reduce dependence on fossil resources.

Additionally, certain bioplastics are biodegradable, offering an extra means of resource recovery at the end of a product’s life. Examples of bioplastics produced by fermentation include polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), polyethylene furanoate (PEF), polybutylene succinate (PBS), polycaprolactone (PCL) and polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT).

Organic acids

Organic acids are an important subset of biopolymers used in the development of performance biomaterials. These acids are characterized by their ability to be produced from a variety of renewable resources. Organic acids, like succinic acid and lactic acid, offer distinct advantages over traditional polymers, like their potential for carbon neutrality. They are produced through fermentation, making them ideal for use in sustainable biomaterials and biodegradable products.

Alcohols

Alcohol, particularly Isobutanol and 1,4-butanediol, can be derived from renewable sources, making them an attractive option for sustainable product development. One advantage of using Isobutanol is its high energy density, which makes it an excellent fuel additive. Additionally, it can be used as a building block to produce performance polymers and solvents. Butanediol, on the other hand, is a versatile chemical used in the production of elastomers, fibers, and thermoplastic polyurethanes. It is highly desirable because of its high reactivity and versatility, enabling it to be used in various applications.

Polysaccharides

Polysaccharides – such as xanthan gum, pullulan, alginate, dextran, heparin, and hyaluronic acid – are used in the development of performance biomaterials such as drug delivery, tissue engineering, and wound healing. These biomolecules offer biocompatibilitybiodegradability, and unique properties, making them ideal for sustainable and eco-friendly product development. Overall, the use of polysaccharides has opened numerous opportunities for sustainable product development in food applications, personal care products, pharmaceutical, and biomedical industries.

News about biopolymers & performance biomaterials