life cycle assessments of novel bio-based idustrial chemicals

Abstract

The purpose of my research is assessing the feasibility and sustainability of novel chemistries for producing industrial coatings from bio-based materials. æLignin, as raw material for bio based coating production, is derived largely from woody biomass and agricultural residues with low cost, but it is resistant to many common chemical extraction and transformation methods. Candlenut nutshells were the source of lignin (about 60% in weight) in this study. Lignin can be extracted by ethanol-water solvent in presence of catalysts such as magnesium and aluminum with smaller amount of copper and iron which influence desired product streams. Catalytic methods with optimal operational conditions were investigated for the extraction of lignin with minimal molecular modification and chemical functionalization. ææA separate project is validating a new UV-curable coating formulation for wood flooring with 30% bio based content and no/low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Tightened regulation legislated regarding VOCs used in conventional coatings, coupled with occasional raw material shortages, fluctuations in petrochemical prices, and CO2 regulations, have led some producers to concentrate on environmentally-friendly coatings that reduce solvent use or substitute persistent polymers with waterborne or less harmful polymeric materials. æEnvironmental impacts of these new formulations have been modeled using life cycle assessment (LCA), considering environmental indicators along the entire chain of bio-based material cultivation, processing, transportation, and incorporation into UV-curable coatings, while also comparing with purely petrochemical versions of the same product.This research was conducted in partnership with PPG, a leading multinational specialty chemicals firm and supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.