Itaconic acid and methacrylic acid as chemical building blocks of the future

Published on
May 26, 2016

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research wants to take a significant step forward in the production of itaconic acid and methacrylic acid for high value materials, such as coatings and inks. These acids that are produced from biomass are interesting alternatives for components that are currently still produced from fossil resources. In the ‘MethaForm’-project, Wageningen University & Research collaborates with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), EOC Belgium and Van Wijhe Paint on the further development of itaconic acid and methacrylic acid as building blocks for performance materials.

‘In this project we are continuing the development of biotechnological processes for the production of itaconic acid from sugars, and catalytic processes for the production of methacrylic acid from itaconic acid’ says Daan van Es, project manager from Wageningen University & Research. ‘We want to show the technological feasibility of producing high value polymers and materials, using these bio-based building blocks.’

Methacrylic acid from itaconic acid

Itaconic acid can be obtained by fermentation of sugars. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has developed a chemical process for producing methacrylic acid from itaconic acid. Methacrylic acid is currently still produced from fossil resources. Polymers based on methacrylic acid are being used in the production of coatings and textile, as well as in alternatives for glass, such as plexiglas®.

Comparison in specific applications

In the MethaForm-project researchers want to compare itaconic acid and methacrylic acid in specific applications, since both building blocks are related. Furthermore, they want to show that the bio- based building blocks can be processed in the same way as their petrochemical analogues. MethaForm is complaint with the ambitions of the Dutch Topsector Chemistry, which strives to make the Netherlands the country for green chemistry by 2050, as well as part of the top three producers of smart materials.

BPM R&D programme and symposium

The MethaForm-project is part of the large-scale research programme Biobased Performance Materials (BPM). On Thursday June 16th , Wageningen UR is organising the BPM symposium to address current biobased performance materials research developments – including presentations from ADM, Sabic, Dupont, Van Wijhe Paints, Icopal, Sulzer and Croda.

The goal of the BPM programme is to develop high-quality materials based on biomass; materials that are increasingly applied in practice. The research focuses on two types of polymer materials: polymers produced by plants and polymers from biobased building blocks produced via biotechnology or chemical catalysis. The BPM programme is partly financed by the Dutch government of Economic Affairs via the Top Sector Chemistry.