INRA & AgroParisTech develop method for plant based Bisphenol A alternatives

Research scientists from INRA (French National Institute for Agronomic Research)  and AgroParisTech ( the leading French Agronomic Engineering University) have developed a bio-catalytic method using plant biomass to produce a range of compounds that could replace Bisphenol A . In addition, the  application properties of those compound can reportedly be tuned as required.

The controversial use of bisphenol A

Bisphenol compounds are included in the composition of different polymers (polycarbonates, polyesters, polyurethanes, etc.). Inexpensive, they have the advantage of endowing these matrices with thermo-mechanical, plasticizing and/or antioxidant properties, which are notably sought for packaging applications. Their principal drawback is their proven toxicity to humans and more globally to the environment. In the long term, a tightening of  the EU REACH regulations may merely ban their use, and particularly that of bisphenol A (BPA) in products destined to come into contact with food and human body (packaging, cosmetics and health sectors, etc.).

Using plant phenols for the ecological production of a range of replacement compounds with tunable properties

The methodology developed by the scientists specifically uses plant based raw materials:

  • platform molecules resulting from the conversion of cell wall polysaccharides,
  • ferulic acid from lignocellulose, and
  • glycerol.

The first two stages of this synthesis are chemical transformations that are widely applied in industry and have a limited environmental impact. The third stage is a bio-catalytic condensation process which involves a commercial lipase. This process does not require  either the use of chemical protection/deprotection reactions, or the use of of solvents. The method is highly flexible because it enables the condensation of a ferulic acid derivatives with different compounds (such as polyols or polyamines) in order to produce a broader range of compounds with tunable properties.

The new bisphenolic compounds thus obtained exhibit excellent thermal stability up to a temperature of 250 °C. They can be used as antioxidants/anti-free radical substances and/or as biosourced plasticisers which display no endocrine disrupting activity.

An innovative application: the synthesis of new bio-sourced “plastic materials”

Because of their properties, these new bisphenols could be used in replacement of bisphenol A to make food packaging. They could also be employed as monomers for the synthesis of new polyesters or polyurethanes. After  a phase of further functionalization, they can also be used as  monomers for the synthesis of polyamides or polyolefins. The range of potential  applications is consequently very large.

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