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  European Commission   > Research > Key Action 5
index by sub-area 5.2. The integrated production and exploitation of biological materials for non-food uses
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Bio-source based recyclable poly(ester-co-amide)s and poly(ester-co-urethane)s for industrial foam applications

Contract nr: QLK5-CT-1999-01298
Project type: RS (Research and Technological Development Project)
Starting date: 01-02-2000
Duration: 48 months
Total cost: 5,892,500 EUR
EC Contribution: 3,270,000 EUR
Scientific Officer: Ciaran MANGAN
Research topic: 5.2. The integrated production and exploitation of biological materials for non-food uses

The BIOFOAM project aims to develop new types of aliphatic block co-polyesters [poly(ester-amide)s and poly(ester-urethane)s], and industrially important foams made thereof. The combination of inexpensive renewable bio-source based feedstock, efficient chemical synthesis, and high-value foam applications leads to an innovative approach to make biopolymers competitive in the market place. The new low cost biopolymers (<1 euro/kg) provide opportunities for tailored biodegradability and performance properties. A foam manufacturing process is optimised for biopolymer processing by using newly developed 3-D foaming process simulation software. An integrated life-cycle management analysis methodology directs the engineering decisions at each stage of the product development cycle. Environmental, economic and societal aspects are simultaneously assessed. The project is managed following a developped and commercial technology staging work-process. A multi-disciplinary approach of world leading experts in complementary industrial and academic fields is used to achieve the BIOFOAM project objectives.

The biofoam project aims to develop new types of aliphatic block co-polyesters that will tackle the biopolymer issues in an innovative fashion. By way of selecting an inexpensive bio-source feedstock, new block-co-polyesters will be synthesised for use in rigid and flexible foam applications. All possible routes for developing an inexpensive bio-source feedstock will be explored. Via life-cycle management analysis (LCMA), various biopolymers versus petroleum-based polymers are compared for use in foams to determine the most viable options. Based on patented technology of the University Twente, block co-polyesters of the type polyester-co-amide and polyester-co-urethane biopolymers are first prepared on a laboratory scale. Subsequently, selected biopolymer compositions that meet the criteria of low cost, recyclability, environmental friendliness and performance properties for targeted foam applications are manufactured on a pilot plant scale. An intensive property characterisation combined with numerical modelling of the foaming process guides the final biopolymer selection. Existing foam processing equipment is optimised for maximising the structural performance of the biopolymer. Eventually, specific foam applications are tested and presented as alternatives to selected polyurethane, polystyrene and emulsion polymer foam applications. The biofoams recyclability is studied in terms of material recovery, bio-source recovery, energy recovery, and biodegradability. An innovative life-cycle management analysis is used to support all critical decisions in the various work packages.

The biofoam project objectives are:
1. define and use a renewable bio-source based feedstock for the synthesis of recyclable aliphatic block-co-polyesters with an emphasis on poly(ester-co-amide)s and poly(ester-co-urethane)s.
2. chemically synthesise with high efficiency a range of block co-polyesters that meet the processing and intrinsic property requirements of a foam application at a cost of less than 1 euro per kg.
3. develop industrially important biopolymer foams that contribute to the efficient and cost effective recyclability of waste streams. This includes at least one novel biopolymer for a high value, foam market application currently dominated by polyurethane, polystyrene and emulsion polymers.
4. develop a numerical model that allows quantitative 3-D predictions of a foaming process for chemical and physical blowing agents and that takes into account the novel biopolymer rheology and processing conditions.
5. develop and apply a life-cycle management analysis (LCMA) method that integrates economic, environmental and societal considerations to direct the renewable bio-source, biopolymer and biofoam developments. Integrate the methodology into a software package to provide a European work-process guideline for new product developments.

Dow Benelux N.V.
Tel.: +31 115672122
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  Kenneth HILLIER
British Vita PLC
Tel.: +44 1616 431133
Fax: +44 1616 533722
  Marinus VAN DE GRAAF
University of Twente
Tel.: +31 534892900
Fax: +31 534892479
  Philippe LE BOZEC
Association pour la recherche et le développement
Sophia Antipolis
Tel.: +33 1 40519050
Fax: +33 1 40510094
Universität Stuttgart
Tel.: +49 711 1212177
Fax: +49 711 1212291
Agrotechnological Research Institute
Tel.: +31 317475000
Fax: +31 317475347