10. Oct 2023
A consortium of Senbis (Emmen, the Netherlands) and Dutch universities and research institutes plans to invest 6.6 million EUR in the development of a new biodegradable polyester The consortium receives a EUR 3.3 million grant through the European Just Transition Funds (JTF).
The focus of the project is to find a solution for the enormous microplastic pollution caused by apparel textiles. Over 50 million tonnes of fibre is produced for apparel each year, of which over 60 % is polyester (PET). An estimated 500,000 tonnes of this volume is lost in the environment each year through e.g. fibre shedding. A biodegradable replacement can avoid long-term microplastic accumulation. However, many technical and economic challenges need to be considered when designing the polymer and fibre.
Gerard Nijhoving, Managing Director of Senbis, explains the motivation of the project: “Our company has been developing fibres and filaments from biodegradable polymers for many years. We know what is possible and too often what is not. With biodegradable polymers, it is often challenging to achieve high mechanical and thermal properties. For technical yarns and textile fibres, this is often a showstopper. We believe industry needs a new type of biodegradable polyester that can be used for fibre applications, which meets both the technical and economical requirements needed for a breakthrough in this field”.
In the BIOTTEK project, knowledge is gathered and gained on what makes certain biopolymers biodegradable but also what makes them melt spinnable and achieve high performance, looking at molecular design and physical properties. This insight is used to develop new biopolyesters which are evaluated both analytically as through application testing via e.g. melt spinning of fibres. It is a unique approach to develop a biodegradable polymer specifically for an application, in this case fibres. Another unique element of this project is that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is utilized to accelerate the development and to provide new suggestions for molecular design.
The research project consists of the following partners:
• Senbis Poly mer Innovations B.V. for polymerization and melt spinning of fibres;
• University of Groningen for polymerization and characterization of biopolymers;
• NHL Stenden University for processing and assessing various end of life scenarios (recycling);
• Wageningen Food & Biobased Research for biodegradability assessment and method; development
• TNO for Artificial Intelligence.
The research projects started in September 2023 and will run for three years. AT