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Our road toward biobased PUDs

How it started and where we are today

By Karine Coget, Synthetic Polymers Technology Manager

To make the world a better place

To make the world a better place, I am convinced we have to start from the hard side, where even a small successful step makes a huge difference toward goals achievement. As a chemist, with almost 15 years of expertise in the field of synthetic polymers, for me this means starting to go greener and get rid of petrol based building blocks, as much as possible, as often as possible, when producing our high performing polymers.

But to be honest, several years ago it all started more as a challenging game than as an answer to a real market demand. Sustainability was making its way on people’s mind, we were curious to start playing with new raw materials. All we knew was that biobased building blocks for PUDs were very few, quite difficult to understand from a chemical perspective…and expensive! And we also knew that the substitution with renewable raw materials would only have been partial, precisely because of the lack of exact and complete biobased alternatives and also in order to guarantee the high performance that has characterized polyurethanes for decades.

PUDs are very effective polymers indispensable for many different applications but so far they are essentially produced with petrochemical materials and processes are well established.

After a first survey, we chose the raw materials that according to us were fitting most for a first round of pre-screening, using as internal benchmarks some of our bestseller products, in such a way to enable the comparison both from process feasibility and from application properties.

We were really enthusiastic, as we did not encounter too many difficulties along the way, so we quickly fine-tuned a short list of prototypes that were ranging from very hard to soft/elastic PUDs. We presented them internally to our applicative R&D experts and business managers, proudly to let Lamberti world know what we were able to do technically.

For the sake of sincerity, at first we did not see all this commitment from our audience, maybe because the customers we were actively working with were not asking yet for biobased products, and also because our first prototypes were obviously not a one-to-one substitution but rather something similar to existing products, with similar properties but at higher cost. However for us in R&D it was a road of no return, we persevered on improving our prototypes, and we made a point to catch every single request that was gradually emerging. By making noise around biobased PUDs, I love to think that we were planting the seed!

This was actually the start of our journey toward a more sustainable chemistry, at least for what concerns synthetic polymers platform. We decided which product to develop, which properties to target, the timeline and the resources to go there.

So far, we have seven biobased PUDs for coatings:

and a specific product range for textile:

Numbers more than double concerning on going R&D activities ... we have just started!