How quality requirements impact the market for bio-based chemicals

Bio-based chemicals that are easy to use in an industrial formula and, that enable the sought characteristics for the final product (e.g., hardiness or color) are of interest to manufacturers of bio-based products. In addition to technical specifications to the bio-based chemical, you find an array of quality requirements. Research in the FRACTION project has revealed that “quality” of bio-based chemicals is defined by a combination of three elements: functionality, miscibility, and processability, each specified according to application, formulation and, industrial process. Functionality refers to the ability of the bio-based chemical to provide similar functions/characteristics to the final product as would be achieved when using non-bio-based components. Functionality is linked to the final product. Miscibility refers to how well the bio-based chemical can be mixed with other compounds in the formulation, thus the property of two substances to mix in all proportions to form homogeneous mixtures.  

Processability refers to e.g., difficulties of cleaning production lines or preventing obstacles during processing thus, relates to the production process to make the bio-based product, for example insulation material, coatings, or plastic products. FRACTION research has gathered information from producers of bio-based chemicals to understand the importance of recognizing processability of the bio-based chemical. For example, one supplier states that the bio-based chemicals are suitable for use in processes such as “injection, molding, extrusion, pressing, thermoforming, blow molding and 3-D printing”. This finding underlines the importance of finding the right match between bio-based chemical, industrial production system, and end product. 

Color or smell of the bio-based product should not be overlooked. Customers in industry (as well as consumers) have opinions about the appearances of a bio-based product, for example insulation material or a metal surface. There are many examples of how unintended appearances e.g., unpleasant smell or unusual color have motivated customers to favor conventional products over bio-based products. 

In addition to three technical parameters, the quality of a bio-based chemical could also refer to the benefits that are provided to the final product when bio-based chemicals are used in the formulation. Examples of such benefits are “biodegradability”, “compostable” or similar attributes. With a rising interest in bio-based products and circularity by public procurement, from consumers, and from industry it is evident that demand for bio-based products will increase. As demand for bio-based products expand, competition among producers will intensify and, new segments and products will find their way into the market. This is where quality attributes such as “biodegradable”; “produced from biological renewable resources”, or “compostable” become important for market diversification. You will find more information about market trends and diversification in the FRACTION report D6.4. 

For more information, contact Karen Thorsted Hamann,