AkzoNobel recently announced what it calls a breakthrough innovation, in collaboration with the Dutch Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC CBBC), of a more sustainable way of making resins. The development could reportedly could pave the way for the introduction of futuristic functionality, such as intelligent coatings that use controlled release of active ingredients or the ability to add new functionality during the lifetime of a coating.
The new process uses bio-based monomers to make the resins, according to AkzoNobel, rather than the traditional oil-based monomers. Requiring just UV light, oxygen, and renewable raw materials, patent applications have already been filed for resins and coatings made with monomers derived from sugar derivatives isolated from biomass. 
“There’s no doubt we’re on the verge of progressing to the next level of coatings technology, thanks to this fantastic example of collaborative innovation in action,” said Klaas Kruithof, AkzoNobel’s chief technology officer. “We’re opening up a new future for paints and coatings by using sustainable building blocks that will enable us to explore and develop some really exciting functionalities for our customers.” 
AkzoNobel reports that biomass is cracked by using acid to produce the sugar derivative (furfural). Using light and oxygen and adding different alcohols produces monomers that can be polymerized into polymers that are used in coatings. The monomers can also be used in coating formulations that are cured by UV-A light.
Most of the research has taken place at the University of Groningen. The team is led by Nobel Prize-winner Ben Feringa, professor in organic chemistry, and doctoral student George Hermens.
“Faced with the challenge of developing the sustainable chemistry of the future—a major goal of the ARC CBBC—I’m extremely pleased with these game-changing results,” said Feringa. “They show that a material for coatings can be produced from biomass using a sustainable chemical process.” 
Having started in 2018, the research project is still at a relatively early stage and a lot of work lies ahead in order to optimize the monomers so they can be made in a more efficient way and on a larger scale. Estimates suggest it could be around five years before the first products start to emerge.
“We’ve still got a long way to go in terms of exploring the scope of the technology, but it will almost certainly define the future of our products,” said Kruithof. “By 2040 or 2050, there’s also a good chance we might only be using bio-based monomers in our resin production, which will help us to reduce the overall carbon footprint of our products.” 

For more information, visit www.akzonobel.com. ARC CBBC is online at https://arc-cbbc.nl.