In the pursuit for sustainable society, the chemical industry is looking for “greener” alternatives to various products with known or suspected toxicity for humans, animals and environment. Together with the possibility of production form renewable resources and/or end-of-life recycling, improved performance and low toxicity are major characteristics aimed for.
Advanced sustainable products at the University of Antwerp
Phthalates are of tremendous importance as plasticizers for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) for many practical applications ranging from floor coating and electrical wires to medical devices and children toys. The most widely used phthalates are di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), and diisononyl phthalate (DINP). Since phthalates are not chemically bound to the polymer, they slowly released in air or water, while the release is greatly accelerated on heating or through contacts with hydrophobic liquids (oils, fats). A number of toxic effects related to prolonged exposure to phthalates are documented, endocrine disruption being the most notorious one. Therefore, phthalates are currently banned from applications requiring direct contact with human body, such as medical equipment, childcare items, toys, etc. At the same time, phthalates still comprise 70% of the global market for plasticizers, estimated as 8 million tons per year, and therefore search for commercially viable alternatives for phthalates is rather important. Current research efforts are focused on the development of new di- and trialkyl esters suitable as non-phthalate plasticizers.
Alkyd resins are widely used in in paints and varnishes due to their superb properties such as good durability, easy application and excellent adhesion to wood and metal. However, most widely used in their production phthalic, isophthalic and trimellitic acids are of petrochemical origin. In order to achieve 100%-biobased alkyd resins, research efforts aim substitution of petrochemical acids for the bio-based alternatives.