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More funding for bio-based solvents

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The stringent regulations curbing volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and increasing concerns over hazardous air pollutants from petrochemical based solvents, such as glycols and ethers, are driving industries to shift to bio-based solvents. The increasing acceptance of these solvents, especially in the paints and coatings, printing inks and pharmaceutical sectors, is extending their scope of application to new industries.

A new analysis from Frost & Sullivan, ‘Bio-based Solvents–6-Dimensional Assessment’, has found that the total market value of bio-based solvents is expected to reach US$8.3 billion by 2020 at a compound annual growth rate of 7.6% from 2015 - 2020.

The current lack of efficient technologies and optimised plant design for the large scale processing of biomass is in turn affecting the production of bio-based solutions. Furthermore, the research community is faced with the challenge of finding the right combination of criteria to select solvents for specific applications.

"Despite production issues, the increasing number of regulations dictating the need for environmentally friendly alternatives to petroleum feedstock based solvents will fuel advancements in cost efficient biochemical production technologies," said TechVision Senior Research Analyst Isaac Premsingh. "Europe and North America will lead with regard to innovation, and technology transfer to Asia for cost-effective manufacturing will gather pace in the next five years." Premsingh continued.

These process developments will enable bio-based solutions to compete with traditional solvents in terms of performance, with significant value adds such as low toxicity. Technology firms and research institutes have already started investing heavily in ensuring solvent biodegradability and zero discharge of environment and health hazards.

Developing recyclable paint formulations is another focus area among technology stakeholders. Research is particularly aimed at creating solvents that can act as coalescing agents for polyesters, polyacrylate and alkyds, which are the primary resin constituents of paints.

"Funding agencies are turning their attention to projects dedicated to formulating bio-based solvents for plastics, composites and green chemicals used in pharmaceuticals," stated Premsingh. "They are also allocating substantial investments for the discovery of renewable versions of traditional organic solvents."

This proliferation of research programs and the growing involvement of government and private institutions reflect the expanding footprint of bio-based solvents and the vast impact they will have on industrial operations in the long term.

’Bio-based Solvents–6-Dimensional Assessment’, a part of the TechVision subscription, evaluates bio-based solvents on the basis of market potential, IP intensity, funding, application potential, breadth of industries impacted and the impact on mega trends. The study classifies the various bio-based solvents and analyses their disruptive potential across various industries.

Adapted from press release by Francesca Brindle

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