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ECOXY

BIO-BASED RECYCLABLE, RESHAPABLE AND REPAIRABLE (3R) FIBRE-REINFORCED EPOXY COMPOSITES FOR THE AUTOMOTIVE AND CONSTRUCTION SECTORS

H2020-BBI-JTI-2016 > | Grant agreement ID: 744311 

June 2017 – November 2020

Fibre reinforced thermoset composites are attractive materials for high demand sectors, such as the motor industry and construction, due to their lightweight and excellent mechanical properties. However, the lack of re-processability and difficulty in repairing and recycling significantly increases the overall material cost and causes grave environmental concerns. Additionally, the vast majority of polymer matrices and fibres used in their manufacturing are non-renewable, fossil-derived materials or require high amounts of energy for their production.

ECOXY

BIO-BASED RECYCLABLE, RESHAPABLE AND REPAIRABLE (3R) FIBRE-REINFORCED EPOXY COMPOSITES FOR THE AUTOMOTIVE AND CONSTRUCTION SECTORS

H2020-BBI-JTI-2016 > | Grant agreement ID: 744311 

June 2017 – November 2020

Fibre reinforced thermoset composites are attractive materials for high demand sectors, such as the motor industry and construction, due to their lightweight and excellent mechanical properties. However, the lack of re-processability and difficulty in repairing and recycling significantly increases the overall material cost and causes grave environmental concerns. Additionally, the vast majority of polymer matrices and fibres used in their manufacturing are non-renewable, fossil-derived materials or require high amounts of energy for their production.

Attempting to address those limitations by involving the European bio-based industry, ECOXY aimed to develop innovative bio-based epoxy resins and fibre reinforcements to produce new, sustainable and techno-economically competitive, fibre reinforced thermoset composites by targeting advanced functionalities: reparability, re-processability and recyclability (3R). The 3R functionalities will be achieved by using new resin formulations replacing commonly used curing agents with dynamic hardeners, which under certain operational conditions, make 3R properties attainable. Indeed, due to their highly cross-linked architecture, thermosets cannot be reprocessed, and are very difficult to repair and recycle. Therefore, at the end of their useful life, thermosets are treated as waste and incinerated, which significantly increases the overall material cost and causes grave environmental concerns.

Thermosensitive enhanced micro-filtration from ecoxy project

Thermosensitive enhanced micro-filtration

Apart from using the 3R properties to solve thermoset end-of-life issue, other objectives of ECOXY were to substitute fossil-fuel derived epoxy resin (e.g. DGEBA) with bio-based counterparts, such as epoxy or glycidyl ethers prepared from vanillin derivatives, phloroglucinol, epoxidized vegetable oils or other biobased and/or renewable building blocks. With ECOXY project, SPECIFIC POLYMERS was mainly involved in the custom-synthesis of sustainable epoxy resins that could satisfy all the requirements linked to the implementation processes (wet compression molding and pultrusion) or the targeted applications (automotive interiors and the construction sector).

The ECOXY project is fully in line with SPECIFIC POLYMERS’s research area dedicated to materials and the environment. Indeed, our objective within this project was to develop a toolbox of biobased epoxy resins that can bring soft to tough thermomechanical properties in order to design a biobased epoxy resin formulation satisfying the whole set of targeted specifications. During the ECOXY project, SPECIFIC POLYMERS researchers focused on the valorization of two kinds of renewable resources. Part of our work was on the synthesis of epoxidized vegetable oils. During the project, more than 12 EVOs characterized by various epoxy content were synthesized, which enabled us to prepare thermoset materials with a glass transition temperature from -20°C to 90°C. Our work also targeted aromatic biobased epoxy resins. They were synthesized either from vanillin alcohol or phloroglucinol: sustainable building blocks that can be extracted from lignin or synthetized from algae by bio enzymatic processes. These biobased aromatic resins allowed us to prepare materials exhibiting glass transition temperatures from 90°C to 180°C.

Learn even more about ECOXY

As more than 80% of the epoxy resins available on the market, the reference epoxy resin to be substituted in ECOXY was mainly constituted by DGEBA, which is directly prepared from Bisphenol-A. To substitute this performing but highly controversial substance, the aromatic biobased epoxy resins were finally determined to be the most relevant for the project. R&D work was initiated at 5-10g scale to establish the best experimental conditions and investigate if moderate deviations around the setting parameters would affect the process safety, productivity and final product quality. For each synthesis step, the experimental parameters were optimized to avoid any potential risks during the scale-up phase. Then, using a staged approach, the syntheses were first scaled up to 1 kilogram in order to validate all experimental parameters and collect, in dedicated process books, all the optimized parameters and process steps that would be required to ensure further upscaling.

Finally, optimized processes were transferred to our toll-manufacturer, and both the vanillin and the phloroglucinol based epoxy resins were scaled up to 20Kg. Such quantities enabled the ECOXY project partners to prepare automotive part demonstrators by wet compression molding. Biobased fibre reinforced thermoset composites were prepared by combining the aforementioned biobased epoxy resins either with flax or PLA fibres. Prepared demonstrators exhibited similar thermo-mechanical properties to those prepared from current petrochemical-based resin. Thanks to the ECOXY project, SPECIFIC POLYMERS developed a toolbox of biobased epoxy resins that can be applied to a large range of applications. It was also shown that aromatic biobased epoxy resins can be produced at larger scale, making them a relevant alternative to DGEBA, the most commonly used epoxy resin prepared from Bisphenol-A.

Related R&D products from our portfolio

Phloroglucinol Triglycidyl Ether

DGEVA

Epoxidized Vegetable Oil (EVO)

Epoxidized Castor Oil (ECO)

Our partners in ECOXY project