A bio-based economy exists when predominantly plant-based materials, i.e. biomass rather than fossil-based raw materials like petroleum are used as a feedstock for making chemicals, materials and products we consume.
Plastics derived from man-made polymers that can be made from building blocks that originate from biological (once living) systems. Most of these building blocks (monomers) are derived from sugars. Examples are FDCA and PEF. At Avantium, we prefer to call PEF and FDCA plant-based plastics, in order to prevent confusion with the term bioplastic. Bioplastic is a plastic derived from a biopolymer, such as DNA, insulin, cellulose and starch.
Also see: “Confusion about terminology and definitions for bio-based and biodegradable plastics”, Gert-Jan Gruter, Column Chemistry Today – vol 37 (4) July/August 2019
Biodegradation is the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, to produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and water. PET is considered to break down in 300-500 years. The first results of tests by OWS (Organic Waste Systems, Gent Belgium) show that PEF degrades much faster than PET under industrial composting conditions (full biodegradation in 250-400 days at 58°C in soil). The biodegradability of PEF in the natural environment (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) is under investigation via a 10-year field trial. PEF biodegradation does not occur during normal use of PEF. Only when a PEF product unintentionally ends up in nature, do the presence of bacteria and fungi will cause it to degrade. How quickly the degradation happens depends on environmental conditions (e.g. moisture (rain), heat, sunlight).
Biomass is organic feedstock especially of plant origin. These feedstocks are renewable and originally found in nature in the form of agricultural and forestry products like corn, wheat, sugar beet, sugar cane, rapeseed and woody plants. The residues of these products also contain starch, carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
A biorefinery is a factory that processes biomass into a range of products and where the goal is to make the most efficient use of the biomass or raw material. Biorefining aims to use every component of the raw material so that nothing goes to waste thereby improving efficiencies and environmental impact. Dawn Technology™ is the brand name of Avantium’s biorefinery technology, which converts non-food plant-based feedstock into industrial sugars and lignin.
Catalysis is the process of increasing the rate of a chemical reaction by adding a substance known as a catalyst, which is not consumed in the catalyzed reaction and can continue to act repeatedly. Catalyst testing is an important practice in the process of developing a new or improved catalyst. Over the years, Avantium Catalysis has executed numerous catalyst-testing projects in the various phases of a catalyst development trajectory, varying from discovery, screening, process optimization, or commercial selection phase.
Substance that enables and accelerates a chemical reaction.
A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. Avantium works to advance new technologies for a more sustainable future. PEF plays a significant role in the circular economy.
CO2 or carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that originates as waste from the burning of fossil fuels, the production of electricity, fertilizers, chemicals, steel and cement. It is the biggest contributor to global warming. The development of electrochemistry has the potential to use CO2 as a feedstock for the sustainable production of chemicals and materials, and is seen as a ’game-changer’ for the chemical industry. The result is that greenhouse gas is sequestered into products that can replace plastics and chemicals that are now produced from fossil feedstock. Avantium’s Volta technology is the leading electro-catalytic platform developing CO2 utilization solutions for a circular future.
CO2 equivalent, or carbon dioxide equivalent, is a standard unit for measuring carbon footprints. The idea is to express the impact of each different greenhouse gas in terms of the amount of CO2 that would create the same amount of warming.
Dawn Technology™ is the brand name of Avantium’s biorefinery technology, which converts non-food plant-based feedstock into industrial sugars and lignin. These sugars, such as glucose, are an excellent raw material for chemistry and fermentation processes used to produce a broad range of products.
End-of-life for PEF
The most preferred end-of-life is re-use and due to the future bans on single-use plastics, re-use will be much more important in the future. When re-use is not possible, recycling is preferred. PEF is designed for recycling and reuse. It has a proven fit with existing sorting and recycling facilities. PEF can be washed at high temperatures and is therefore suitable for re-using. If human behavior results in unplanned and undesired leakage of PEF into our environment, first results of tests by Organic Waste Systems (OWS) (Gent, Belgium) show that PEF degrades much faster than PET under industrial composting conditions (250-400 days with air/oxygen @ 58°C in soil). The degradability of PEF under ambient conditions is under investigation (10 year field trial).
2,5-furandicarboxylic acid, an intermediate chemical to make PEF (polyethylene furanoate).
Avantium’s Flowrence Technology® is an advanced high-throughput platform for high-quality testing of catalysts and adsorbents. The Flowrence Technology® can be used for a broad range of industrial applications that operate in gas, vapor or trickle phases. The parallel reactor system combines the reproducibility of larger-scale reactors with the advantages of small-scale reactors such as intrinsic safety, high accuracy, low costs per experiment and, ultimately, faster time-to-market.
Glucose is a sugar consisting of six carbon atoms (C6). It is a core building block for the transition to a bio-based economy. Glucose serves as a feedstock for the production of a broad range of chemicals and materials produced via chemistry or fermentation processes. The resulting products can be existing and new plant-based chemicals, such as plant-based mono-ethylene glycol, mono-propylene glycol, FDCA (furandicarboxylic acid) and PEF (polyethylene furanoate, a 100% plant-based recyclable polymer).
Glycol is any of a class of organic compounds belonging to the alcohol family. The term is often applied to the simplest member of the class: mono-ethylene glycol, a colourless, oily liquid. Avantium has developed plant-based mono-ethylene glycol, a vital ingredient for the production of polyester textiles and film, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyethylene furanoate (PEF) resins and engine coolants.
Humins are carbon-based macromolecular structures, formed as a side-product during sugar-based biorefinery processes. Due to multiple functional groups including aldehydes, ketones and alcohols, humins are capable of many different types of chemistries and can therefore find applications as diverse as modification agents for softwoods, antioxidant species or polymeric resins for biobased composites.
Hydrogenolysis is a chemical reaction whereby a carbon–carbon or carbon–heteroatom single bond is cleaved or undergoes breakdown by hydrogen. Avantium’s plant-based mono-ethylene glycol is produced from sugars by a catalytic production process.
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
A LCA is the compilation and evaluation of the input, output and the potential environmental impact of a product system throughout its life cycle. LCA is fundamental to understanding how Avantium’s technologies compete with fossil-based alternatives. LCAs form the bedrock of how we measure our footprint and the potential sustainability benefits of our innovations. Avantium has conducted multiple LCAs for its lead products PEF, plantMEG and plantMPG. You can find the results here: LCA – Avantium
Lignin is the mass that remains after the sugars have been removed from the initial raw material through the Dawn Technology™ biorefining process. It is more efficient for energy generation as its energy content is up to 40% higher than the original wood chips used in the process. Energy generation is currently the predominant application for lignin. Additional higher value applications are being developed. Interestingly, the lignin looks a lot like the briquettes we use when we grill outside but now not coal-based.
Mono-ethylene glycol (MEG)
Mono-ethylene glycol – or MEG – is a vital ingredient for the production of polyester textiles and film, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyethylene furanoate (PEF) resins and engine coolants. End uses for plant-based MEG range from clothing and other textiles, through packaging to kitchenware, non-toxic coolants (eg. antifreeze) and solvents (eg. paint and coatings). Ray Technology™ is the brand name of Avantium’s technology to produce plant-based mono-ethylene glycol and Ray plantMEG™ the brand name of our plant-based MEG.
A molecule that can be bonded to other identical molecules to form a larger polymer chain.
Mono-propylene glycol (MPG)
Mono-propylene Glycol (MPG) is a valuable intermediate and is used in a wide variety of applications, including unsaturated polyester resins, industrial uses and food, feed and pharma. Unsaturated polyester resins represent 41% of MPG offtake, and are mainly used in fibreglass reinforced plastics for construction marine and transportation industries. Technical application such as functional fluids and solvents account for 30% of MPG offtake. Food, feed and pharma applications make up the remaining 29% of MPG offtake. Ray Technology™ is the brand name of Avantium’s technology to produce plant-based mono-ethylene glycol and MPG as a co-product and Ray plantMPG™ the brand name of our plant-based MPG.
Polyethylene Furanoate, a polyester made form mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) and FDCA (furandicarboxylic acid). PEF produced by Avantium’s YXY Technology is a 100% plant-based and recyclable polymer that can be applied to an enormous range of applications, including packaging of soft drinks, water, alcoholic beverages and fruit juices. PEF’s barrier and thermal properties are superior to conventional PET. In combination with a significantly reduced carbon footprint, the added functionality gives PEF all the attributes to become the next-generation polyester.
Polyethylene terephthalate, transparent polyester used for bottles and film. The polyester is made from mono-ethylene glycol and (fossil-based) terephthalic acid.
With our Volta Technology, we can convert CO2 into oxalic acid. In a proprietary second, separate process step, this is then turned into glycolic acid. By combining this glycolic acid with some lactic acid, Avantium can produce polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA), a polymer with valuable characteristics: it has an excellent barrier against oxygen and moisture, has good mechanical properties and is both home compostable and marine degradable. Due to its properties, PLGA is an excellent sustainable alternative for PE (polyethylene). PLGA can be used, for example, as coating material and in moulded plastic materials.
Polyesters are polymers formed from a dicarboxylic acid and a diol. Polyesters are very stable and strong and are used especially in making fibers for clothing or plastics. As a specific material, it most commonly refers to PET or PEF.
A polymer is a chemical compound with molecules bonded together in long repeating chains. The term “polymer” is commonly used today in the plastics and composites industry, and it is often used as a synonym for “plastic” or “resin.”
Ray Technology™ is the brand name of Avantium’s technology to produce plant-based mono-ethylene glycol, our Ray plant MEG™, developed under the project name Mekong. Internally, Avantium uses river names for its projects and upon commercialization, the company adopts a brand name.
Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. It is an alternative to waste disposal that can save material and help lower greenhouse gas emissions. Avantium’s PEF is a 100% plant-based, 100% recyclable plastic with superior performance properties compared to today’s widely used petroleum-based packaging materials. Recycling for PEF is very similar to PET recycling and trials have shown that the existing recycling systems are compatible to PEF, so no systems need to be developed. In addition PEF can easily be distinguished and enables sorting from PET and other plastics using optical sorting systems used today. In addition to the interim approval of PEF in mono- and multilayer bottles in Europe by the EPBP (European PET Bottle Platform), also the US-based Association of Plastics Recyclers has included PEF in its Critical Guidance Recognition for recyclability in plastic packaging design in June 2023.
Agricultural or forestry raw materials, which are not used as food or feed, but as raw material for industrial products. The use of renewable resources by industry saves fossil resources and reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
Re-use involves cleaning and using again of plastic material without recycling. PEF’s mechanical and thermal characteristics offer potential performance benefits in reuse applications, which are currently under development.
An attempt to provide the best outcomes for the human and natural environment both now and into the indefinite future. Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. At Avantium, sustainability is built into our very purpose. It drives our employees, informs our technology development and excites our commercial partners.
Avantium’s Volta Technology is the leading electro-catalytic platform developing CO2 utilization solutions for a circular future. Volta Technology uses electrochemistry to convert CO2 to high-value products and chemical building blocks including glycolic acid. By combining glycolic acid with lactic acid, Avantium can produce polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA), a carbon-negative polymer with valuable characteristics: it has an excellent barrier against oxygen and moisture, has good mechanical properties, is recyclable and is both home compostable and marine degradable. This makes PLGA a more sustainable and cost-effective alternative to, for example, non-degradable, fossil-based polymers.
Avantium’s YXY technology helps to produce a wide range of novel 100% plants-based materials and products by converting plant-based sugars (fructose) into plant-based chemicals and plastics, such as polyethylene furanoate (PEF).
1st Generation feedstock
Carbohydrate rich plants such as sugar beet, sugar cane, corn and wheat that can also be used as food are called food crops or 1st generation feedstock. Currently, 1st generation feedstock is the most efficient feedstock for the production of plant-based chemicals like plant-based and plastics such as PEF.
2nd Generation feedstock
This refers to feedstock not suitable for food, such as forestry or agricultural residues. Dawn Technology™ is the brand name of Avantium’s biorefinery technology, which converts non-food plant-based feedstock into industrial sugars and lignin.
Disclaimer: This glossary has been carefully compiled and we believe it to be accurate. Definitions may however be based on Avantium’s interpretation and such use of terms may differ from the meaning assigned to them elsewhere in the industry or otherwise.