Read on
Existing roofing products for flat roofs are high in quality and have a long lifespan, but they are mainly made of fossil raw materials. Bitumen or synthetic membranes are made from petroleum, for instance. In the DISCOVER (Development of Innovative Sustainable Covering Materials for Roofing) project, Icopal and Wageningen Food & Biobased Research (WFBR) are developing a 100% biobased roofing membrane as an alternative to the existing bituminous roof systems, with the same technical and functional characteristics. This should ultimately result in a cost reduction and a better environmental profile.
Editorial office / Wageningen

The most important technical challenge is the fact that biomass is more hydrophilic (and therefore less moisture resistant) and more reactive than fossil bitumen. Therefore, the research will mainly focus on achieving good miscibility between the various components in a roofing membrane, by using formulation and conversion technology. The biobased products should be processable using traditional production and application methods.

The effect of replacing fossil bitumen with biobased materials on the overall environmental impact is mapped by performing one or more life cycle analyses (LCA).

Promising raw materials

Various promising biobased raw materials have been selected, with a view to the desired criteria for a roof membrane formulation. Suppliers of these raw materials have been contacted and test samples have been ordered. Icopal and Wageningen Food & Biobased Research tested these raw materials in biobased mixtures for their effect on compatibility, stability, viscosity profile and other relevant product properties.

Combinations of biobased raw materials and process conditions have also been tested. Some raw materials showed a low, others a high compatibility with each other. In a single case, modification of materials by Wageningen Food & Biobased Research was performed on a scale of 5 kg. This is currently being investigated to improve the properties of the formulation. Substitution of the polymer part in the roof membrane formulation is a challenge and different biobased polymers are being studied. In addition, the new formulations will be arranged according to desirable properties but also compared with existing formulations (based on literature and patents).

Visit the BPM Symposium

Would you like to know more about this project, or results from other 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.