By Lynn L. Bergeson
On August 30, 2018, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (Fraunhofer IGB) published an article announcing the latest advances in using 3-carene as a building block to produce biobased plastics. The aforementioned substance, 3-carene, “is a component of turpentine oil, a waste stream of the production of cellulose from wood.” This substance can be found in pine, larch, or spruce and is usually a byproduct that ends up being incinerated. The research project’s name -- “TerPa – Terpenes as building blocks for biobased polyamides” -- reflects the general premise of the technique used in transforming 3-carene into polyamides, which are used as alternatives to glass/metal and resistant to various chemicals and solvents. Researchers at Fraunhofer IGB confirm that they have optimized the synthesis of lactam -- a key component in building polyamides -- in large scale through a single reactor that requires less energy input. The resulting biobased polyamides are amorphous and resistant to high temperatures, which are ideal in the production of plastics.