Daan van Es of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is project leader for the research on itaconic acid and methacrylic acid. He says: ‘We are investigating two things in this project. Firstly, can we make a biobased drop-in for fossil methacrylic acid? This known chemical building block for acrylates is used very widely, for example for PMMA (Plexiglas) and coatings. A biobased alternative would therefore be welcome. Secondly, can we directly use biobased itaconic acid for water-based paint systems? ‘
Skipping a step
‘Through the fermentation of sugars we make citric acid, a precursor of itaconic acid’, says Van Es. ‘However, the same microorganisms are also capable of producing itacid acid directly. In this way we can skip a step in the production process. ‘
According to Van Es, significant progress has already been made in developing a reliable process for the conversion of citric acid to itaconic acid and also for the subsequent step to methacrylic acid. ‘With this knowledge we can work on commercialization. We also achieved good results in the field of resins based on itaconic acid. We now also have a chemical toolbox with which we can fine-tune the properties of the latest water-based coatings by changing the ratios between different monomers. ‘
Partners in this project are the agricultural producer Archer Daniels Midlands from the USA, paint producer Van Wijhe Verf from Zwolle and the EOC-Group from Oudenaarde (Belgium), producer of latex resins.
Visit the BPM Symposium
Would you like to know more about this project, or other results from projects within the Biobased Performance Materials program of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research? Visit the 7th Biobased Performance Materials symposium on 14 June in Wageningen. A day full of examples of recent and future developments from the program, presented by companies active in the circular and biobased value chain.