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New polymer plasticisers and stabilisers from UK-grown crambe - NF0615

The principal objective of this project is to manufacture TWO plasticisers and TWO stabilisers for use in the plastics industry. These additives will be derived from the major fatty acid component of UK-grown crambe using a new manufacturing process. In order to deliver this goal, a consortium has been assembled that comprises a supplier of starting fatty acid (Springdale Crop Synergies Ltd), an additives manufacturer expert in ozonisation and esterification technology (Warwick International Ltd) and an end-user of the polymer additives that will be produced (Hydro Polymers Ltd). The industrial participants will be supported in the technology development by the BioComposites Centre (ozonisation/esterification chemistry) and Aston University’s Polymer Processing and Performance Research Unit (polymer formulation and processing, characterisation and performance appraisal). The underpinning chemistry is proprietary and has been developed by Warwick International Ltd and BioComposites Centre and is based on clean and green chemistry requiring inputs of only electricity and oxygen gas to generate ozone gas. Di-esters of brassylic acid have been shown in the literature to have performance properties comparable to dioctyl phthalate in the plasticization of polyvinyl chloride but without the toxicity and the risks to human reproduction attributed to the phthalates. These have not found widespread acceptance due to unavailability of brassylic acid in large quantities. Recent technology developed by BioComposites Centre and Warwick International Ltd has proven the economic and technical utility of ozonisation as a method of deriving di-acids from the fatty acid components of vegetable oil. Brassylic acid may be readily derived from erucic acid, itself the major component fatty acid of crambe oil and high erucic rapeseed oil. Ozonisation of erucic acid is expected to give brassylic acid (and pelargonic acid) in excellent yields on the basis of a large number of experiments carried out with oleic acid at the BioComposites Centre. Subsequent esterification will generate a range of brassylic ester-based plasticisers and stabilisers for polymers. These new non-food crop-based additives will be compounded and melt processed in polymers (PVC formulation for the plasticisers; polypropylene for stabilisers) at Aston University‘s Polymer Processing and Performance, PPP, Research Unit where their characteristics and performance will be tested, followed by ultimate trials at Hydro Polymers Ltd. This will enable a critical advance that will raise the overall profile and interest in the non-food oil-crop market by delivering alternative plasticizers and stabilisers for the multi-faceted plastics industry derived from natural resources using clean and green chemical processing technology.POLICY RELEVANCEThis proposal is of direct relevance to DEFRA’s policies as the successful development of this non-food crop based industry has the potential to satisfy policies regarding sustainable development, improvement of countryside management through farming diversification concomitant with reduced economic and environmental risks, including interruption of external supply or climate change.INTENDED USE OF RESULTSFormulations for commercially important end-use products will be developed whereby the additives are to be both melt processed in the polymers and tested under industrially-recognised conditions/procedures for immediate access and assessment by industry to enhance the fast-track potential for exploitation and commercialisation.
The overall AIM of this project concerns the exploitation of timely opportunities for the manufacture (synthesis using low cost green chemistry) of plasticizers and stabilisers for the plastics industry as well as the generation of technical evaluation data and information (processing/fabrication in polymers with developed formulations and characterising performance in terms of efficacy) on the use of new and safer polymer additives produced from renewable resources based on a non-food crop grown in the UK, namely crambe. Application of the results of this project including the synthesis and scaling up of additives based on naturally occurring UK-grown raw materials, their characterization, and the generated technical information of their efficacy in melt processed (‘fabricated’) polymers (by comparison with current state-of-the art commercial synthetic additives having the same additive function) should demonstrate their suitability for a range of applications, and can be expected to reduce markedly the time-to-market for the exploitation of this generation of new and more environmentally friendly additives in polymers. Indeed, a complete supply chain has been assembled within this project to deliver raw material, processing, efficacy data and end-use application. This should provide the pre-emptive competitive edge to the relevant UK-industries in the fiercely contested global chemical/additive market. The aim of this project is supported by FIVE interlinked major objectives described below and encompassing six main Work Approaches as shown schematically in Fig. 11-1 (under section 11). The timescale for achieving these objectives is shown in Table 11-1 (also under section 11): Objective 1: To prepare (laboratory and pilot scale) and characterize new polymer stabilisers and plasticizers based on derivatives of crambe oil using modern “green” chemistry and cost-effective commercial methods recently developed in the laboratories of the proposer. The expected achievement is to obtain four products containing plasticiser and stabiliser functions (objective to be realised by BioComposites Centre). Objective 2: To develop polymer formulations for use with the newly synthesized additives (obtained from objective 1) required for polymer processing, based on modification of currently used formulations involving commercial products having the same additive function. These formulations will be used to optimize polymer melt processing operations. The expected achievement here is the production of additive-containing processed polymer samples (relevant to industrial lab-scale polymer test samples) suitable for subsequent performance and characterization tests (see objective 3 below) (objective to be realised by PPP Research Unit).Objective 3: To conduct a technological evaluation and appraisal of the new additives in well defined melt processed polymer formulations. A state-of-the art industry standard accelerated weathering device will be used for weathering exposure of polymers containing the new UV-stabilizer, and industry-recognised tests and advanced characterization techniques will be used to assess the performance of all four additives in polymer formulations. The expected achievement is to generate critical, industry-recognised, technical data and information on the new stabilisers and plasticizers as to their characteristics and performance in specified polymer formulations (objective to be realised by PPP Research Unit). Objective 4: To transfer the laboratory/pilot scale synthetic procedures used for additive production to the industrial scale. The expected achievement is to have developed the technology for upscaling the new additives in order to bring the production methods of the new additives into the market-place and to enable competitive and short lead-time for industrial exploitation and introduction-to-market. (objective to be realised by BioComposites Centre and Warwick International Ltd).Objective 5: To transfer the plasticiser and stabiliser additives to industrial end users, initially through the industrial partners in the consortium, but also through other interested groups including academia and public institutes (objective to be realised by PPP Research Unit, BioComposites Centre and Hydro Polymers Ltd).
Project Documents
• Final Report : New polymer plasticisers and stabilisers from UK-grown crambet   (827k)
• Final Report - Annex : New polymer plasticisers and stabilisers from UK-grown crambe   (153k)
• Final Report - Annex : New polymer plasticisers and stabilisers from UK-grown crambe Crop   (215k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2006

Cost: £199,385
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Hydro Polymers Ltd, Aston University, Warwick International Ltd, Eurofibre Limited, University of Wales, Bangor
Arable Farming              
Fields of Study
Non-Food Crops