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issue 05/2021

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Highlights: Fibres, Textiles, Nonwovens Biocomposites Basics: CO2-based plastics

Fibres, Textiles By:

Fibres, Textiles By: Amrei Becker, Henning Löcken Christoph Peiner, Mathias Schmitz Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) RWTH Aachen University Aachen, Germany Project AlgaeTex from microalgae to sporting goods BioTexFuture is one of four innovation spaces which are funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) during the National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030 [1]. The vision of BioTexFuture is the conversion of the textile value chain from petroleum-based to biobased. In order to fulfil this vision, in the AlgaeTex sub-project, the development of microalgae as a raw material basis for plastic filaments to produce sustainable textile products is being researched. This development will make an essential contribution to sustainability and the German textile industry’s future viability. Specifically, in three project years, various monomers and polymers will be developed with the highest possible proportion of algae-based raw materials. The polymers produced will be melt spun and converted into high-quality textile demonstrators. In particular, the AlgaeTex project aims to demonstrate the applicability of algae-based multifilament fibres for textiles in the sports industry, such as knitted shoe uppers or T-shirts. The sustainability of the process chain for the production of the demonstrators is examined holistically and in detail. In cooperation with experts, the socio-economic and legal aspects are also included in the investigations. In order to achieve the goals of the AlgaeTex subproject, algae cultivation will first be optimised to produce chemical base materials for polymer production. The aim is to produce purified fatty acid methyl esters (FAME). To this end, findings from biobased fuels research are being taken up. Plastics relevant to the textile industry, such as polyamide and polyester, are produced from chemical base products (FAME). So far, the synthesis of polyamides, polyesters, and polyurethanes based on algae fatty acids is not known, which emphasizes the high degree of innovation of this project. The plastics produced are qualified for the textile value chain in spinning and knitting trials and finally converted into a textile demonstrator of the highest possible quality for the sporting goods industry. The results obtained in the individual work steps show good scientific-technological as well as economic prospects of success. In particular, it is critically examined in each project phase whether a corresponding scaling up to more considerable raw material and plastic volumes seems to be possible, so that an industrial utilisation of the project results is also given. In summary, the following goals are being pursued: 1. Fatty acid accumulation and fatty acid profile as a function of light intensity and light spectrum 2. Scalability of production scenarios of fatty acid-rich microalgae in artificially illuminated photobioreactors 3. Extraction of fatty acids from microalgae 4. Derivatisation of fatty acids to monomers and corresponding polymers 5. Qualification of the produced polymers for the textile process chain 6. Production of high-performance textile demonstrators for the sporting goods industry AT [1] Biooekonomiestrategie_Langfassung_eng.pdf Fig. 1: AlgaeTex Mission Statement CO 2 ALGAE CULTIVATION & EXTRACTION POLYMER DEVELOPMENT YARN DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT 20 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/21] Vol. 16

Green2Black developing biobased acrylonitrile By: S. Schonauer, T. Röding & T. Gries Institut für Textiltechnik of RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany Due to the transition towards renewable resources as well as politically set goals by 2030, the industry is facing fundamental changes in energy supply and its raw material base. This bears the risk of shortages, rising prices, or incompatibility with established processes. It therefore makes sense to develop processes with which fossil-based basic materials can gradually be replaced by renewable ones. The ITA of RWTH Aachen University is currently in the process of developing such a drop-in solution for the basic chemical acrylonitrile (ACN). ACN is one of the most important basic chemicals or monomers for the plastics industry worldwide. The demand in the international context lies around 6 million tonnes per year with a slight trend upwards [1, 2]. Currently, ACN is produced within the petrochemical industry. This means that ACN is produced on the basis of mineral oil. Its use as a raw material entails not only various risks for society and nature but is also not consistent with present ecological goals. Alternative initial raw materials that result in a sustainable process chain are a promising solution for tackling these problems. [3] The materials made from ACN are classified as engineering grade plastics and are used in mechanical, automotive, and electrical engineering, as well as in consumer products. Their range of application includes but is not limited to synthetic fibres for household or clothing textiles, thermal as well as electrical insulation, or implementation in high-performance materials. Additionally, ACN derived polyacrylonitrile is the dominating material in the production of precursors for carbon fibres. The global market covers an annual demand of all these materials of about 21.5 million tonnes. In fact, its usage in comparison to other standard polymers such as polypropylene, has risen more over the last years [4]. One of the objectives of the innovative project Green2Black is the production of the basic chemical ACN based on renewable resources, namely glycerine derived from biomass. The ultimate goal of the project then being the production of biobased carbon fibres. Providing a proof-of-concept on a technical scale of both ACN production and its further processing into materials, would open up part of the existing product tree (Fig. 1) to renewable carbon sources, while using existing infrastructure. The Rhenish mining region offers existing infrastructure with established petrochemical and biotechnological industry plants. Coal mining or related jobs in that field are historically significant in the region but have been diminished in the last decades. A change to a bio-economic industry could compensate those lost jobs by creating new opportunities and labour in the future. The feedstock used for biobased ACN is a by-product of regional vegetable oil processing, and even significantly cheaper than crude oil. Thus, this innovative approach has great potential to create not only an economically competitive alternative to the fossil-based production process of ACN, but one based on renewable resources with a likely creation of new jobs. This could in addition foster increased public acceptance which is of paramount importance for overall success. [1] N.N.: Markets & Profitability, Market Analytics: Acrylonitrile – 2018. URL: [2] Baldwin, D.: 2018 Glycerine structural shift, Vantage Oleochemicals, ICIS Pan American Confenrence, October 2018 [3] Karp, E.; Eaton, T.; Sanchez I Nogué, V. et al.: Reneable acrylonitrile production, Science 08 Dec 2017, Vol. 358, Issue 6368, pp. 1307-1310 [4] Goyal, A.: WBS Biomass conversion to acrylonitrile monomerprecursor for the production of carbon fibers, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) 2017 Project peer Review, Biochemical conversion, March 8, 2017 Fibres, Textiles textiles Fig. 1: Product tree of Acrylonitrile (ACN) bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/21] Vol. 16 21

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