Closing Carbon Cycles with Renewable Amines (3CRA)

Publieke samenvatting / Public summary

The production of sustainable and circular bulk and platform chemicals has in recent years mainly focused on
oxygen containing renewable carbon. Examples from the Netherlands are the synthesis of HMF/FDCA from
lignocellulose (Avantium) and lactic acid/PLA (Corbion) by fermentation of carbohydrates. The sustainable
synthesis of so-called nitrogen-containing platform chemicals such as amines, on the other hand, is still in its
infancy. Amines are important building blocks for the chemical industry and are used, for example, for the
synthesis of polyamides (PA, market $30-35 billion) and polyurethanes (PU, market $70-75 billion). The vast
majority of industrially available amines are of fossil origin and the use of circular/biobased sources for their
production such as plastic recyclate and biomass would not only be a sustainable alternative but also diminish the
dependency on petrochemicals.

In this proposal, a consortium of knowledge institutes (wo, hbo) and industry aims to carry out the synthesis of
platform amines from biomass and end-of-life plastics. Furthermore, it will investigate the chemical re/upcycling of
polyamides and polyurethanes by means of an ammonolysis, a depolymerisation reaction using ammonia (NH3).
The products obtained are then purified from impurities and by-products, and in the case of polyurethanes, the
amines obtained are used for repolymerization. In the depolymerisation of polyamides the amides are first
hydrolysed towards the corresponding carboxylic acids and used in the repolymerisation towards polyamides.
The above cycles are particularly suitable for end-of-life plastic streams from sorting installations that are not
suitable for mechanical/chemical recycling. Any loss of material is compensated for by synthesis of amines from
(mixtures of) end-of-life plastics and biomass (organic waste streams). The ammonia required for depolymerisation
can be synthesised from green hydrogen (Haber-Bosch process).

Korte omschrijving
§ Synthesis of (di)amines from biomass (including aniline, aromatic and aliphatic diamines)
§ Synthesis of (di)amines from end-of-life plastics (from PP/PE & polyesters)
§ Polymerisation of renewable diamines towards polyamides and polyurethanes
§ Molecular recycling (including Twaron, nylon, MDI based foams and elastane))
§ Evaluation (LCA/TEA) and process design
§ Development of new circular business models
§ Installation of Innovation communities (fasten acceptance)

Closing carbon cycles (high carbon efficiency) and supplementing the amines needed for the chain from biomass
and end-of-life plastics results in a significant CO2 saving, a reduction in material input and waste. Our project
focuses on a number of specific industrially relevant cases/chains and should/will result in economically,
ecologically (including safety) and socially acceptable routes for recycling polyamides and polyurethanes.
Commercialisation of the results obtained are foreseen by the companies involved. Furthermore, as our project will result in a wide variety of new and drop-in (di)amines from sustainable sources, it will increase the
attractiveness to use these sustainable monomers for currently prepared and new polyamides and polyurethanes.
Also other market applications (pharma, fine chemicals, coatings, electronics, etc.) are foreseen for the sustainable
amines synthesized within our proposition.