Green building blocks for bio-based plastics

P.F.H. Harmsen, M.M. Hackmann, H.L. Bos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

222 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we investigate the possible routes to produce the most commonly used polymers from biomass. This includes vinyl polymers, polyesters, polyamides, polyurethanes, and synthetic rubbers. Also the most promising newly developed polymers that can be produced from biomass are investigated. Approximately 80% by weight of all chemicals produced by the petrochemical industry are applied in polymer materials. Producing these materials from biomass instead of fossil resources thus significantly contributes to the development of the bio-based economy. We show that it is technically possible to produce all major bioplastics from biomass. In many cases even more than one process can be envisioned. Essential chemical building blocks involved in the bio-based production routes are presented, including state of the art production routes and production volumes. If we assume that processing costs for bio-based processes will lower with further development of the bio-based technologies, feedstock costs will start to weigh more heavily on the total production costs in the future. In that respect efficient use of biomass will become more important. Building blocks with acid- and alcohol functionalities, such as lactic acid and succinic acid, can be well produced from biomass like sugars, since the oxygen atoms needed for these building blocks are already present in the biomass. Building blocks that can be applied in many polymer groups due to their chemical structure are promising and are expected to undergo substantial growth. We show that there are various developments on these versatile building blocks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-324
JournalBiofuels Bioproducts and Biorefining
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2014


  • bulk chemicals


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