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Green Epoxy: towards rigid epoxy resins made from forest by-products

The Green Epoxy project aims to develop ranges of 100% biosourced resins whose minimum performance will be identical to those currently on the market.  Now at its halfway point, the project is entering the pilot phase for the production of rigid epoxy resins of interest to two industrial markets: floor coverings and paints.

Green Epoxy: rigid epoxy resins from forest by-products. © Inra UMR 1083 SPO SPIRAL, UMR 1083 SPO SPIRAL
Updated on 03/27/2017
Published on 01/26/2017

Epoxy resins: economic, environmental and public health challenges

Employed universally throughout industry, rigid epoxy resins have become essential in numerous sectors (electricity and electronics, paints, transport, construction, etc.) (1). More than 70% of these commercial resins are formulated from an epoxy precursor (bisphenol A and epichlorhydrin) and an amine hardener obtained from the petrochemicals industry, which poses three problems:

  • The toxicity of the constituents used. This requires limits on their use, or even their replacement,
  • The use of petroleum-sourced molecules in a context of increasingly scarce resources and volatile prices,
  • The need for traditional chemical processes which do not always comply with environmental challenges and the valorisation of local resources.

Green Epoxy: a project built from downstream to upstream that integrates all actors

Initiated in 2015, Green Epoxy is being driven by public and private sector actors in France. It forms part of long-term efforts to develop a local sector that covers all aspects, ranging from the supply of raw materials to the marketing of biosourced polyphenol resins.

Alliance Forêt-Bois, a partner in the project, is supplying a raw material that is currently little exploited (i.e. by-products from the forestry industry) as a source of polyphenol molecules. Based on the know-how developed by INRA's Agropolymer Engineering and Emerging Technologies (IATE) and Sciences for Oenology (SPO) Joint Research Units, and the Institut Charles Gerhardt, these molecules have been extracted, depolymerised and then functionalised so that they can be tested as epoxy precursors.  Conventional hardeners have been replaced by commercial, biosourced amines, while other replacement molecules (chitosan) have also been studied.

The project is now entering a new phase that involves the companies Lefrant Rubco and PCAS so that the extraction and phenol depolymerisation steps can be scaled up and production transposed to the industrial pilot scale. Finally, the different 100% biosourced polyphenol epoxy resins will be tested directly by the partners who will be their end users: Résipoly in the flooring sector and Prospa for industrial paints. The project will be completed by the conduct of economic impact studies and tests for environmental ecotoxicity and human toxicity. Finally, different criteria designed to evaluate the quality and socioeconomic consequences of the project will also be implemented in the context of a "self-assessment".

And then?

In the short term, the partners wish to test other types of biomass that could supply various polyphenols and thus open the way to applications for their epoxy resins. The consortium is open to the involvement of other actors positioned at any point in the phenol value chain.
In the longer term, the consortium has fixed further goals:  

  • The creation of a local sector for the production of epoxy resins using biomass,  
  • For end users, clarification of the economic effects on their turnover of starting to replace their current products with biosourced products,
  • The creation of a facility which in the longer term could produce 7000 T/year of resin for end users.

(1)  In 2011, the global production of epoxy resins reached 2.2 million tonnes.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Hélène FULCRAND INRA-Montpellier SupAgro-Université de Montpellier Sciences for Oenology Joint Research Unit UMR 1083 SPO Inra, Montpellier SupAgro, Université de Montpellier, 2 place Viala 34060 Montpellier cedex 1
Industrial manager of the project:
Associated Division(s):
Science for Food and Bioproduct Engineering
Associated Centre(s):

For more information on the Green Epoxy project

Objective: to find a non-toxic alternative for the production of rigid epoxy resins (using biomass)
List of partners:
Manager of the project: Protéus, a subsidiary of PCAS, (70 allée Graham Bell - Parc Georges Besse - 30035 Nîmes cedex 1)
Other private sector partners: Alliance Forêt-Bois, Lefrant Rubco, PCAS, Prospa, Résipoly Chrysor
Public Sector Research: UMR SPO, CIRAD-INRA- Montpellier SupAgro-Université de Montpellier Joint Research Unit for Agropolymer Engineering and Emerging Technologies (UMR 1208), Institut de Chimie Moléculaire et des Matériaux Charles Gerhardt de Montpellier (CNRS-ENSCM-Université de Montpellier)    
Duration of the project: January 2015-February 2018
Funding and accreditation: FUI – 18 – accredited by the IAR, Axelera and Trimatec competitiveness clusters.
Overall budget: €2.8 million

INRA's contribution to the project

UMR SPO: The SPIRAL team (phenolic structures: interactions, reactivity and assembly) has considerable expertise in polyphenol chemistry and particularly in the depolymerisation of tannins for analytical purposes and the production of biosourced, functionalised, phenolic synthons.

L’UMR IATE: The Fractionation of agricultural resources team works on the grinding, extraction and separation of raw materials. New processes, such as physical, chemical or enzymatic pre-treatments, ultrafine grinding and electrostatic separation have been developed for this purpose.   

Patents filed by public research establishments involved in the project

  • Patent FR1457584, entitled "Composés dérivés de flavonoïdes et procédé pour leur préparation par dépolymérisation de tanins condensés", filed on 04/08/14 on behalf of INRA, Montpellier SupAgro and Université de Montpellier, extended by PCT.
  • Patent FR1553769, entitled "Composé à fonctions époxydes biosourcés, procédé de synthèse d'un tel composé et son utilisation pour la préparation de résine époxyde", filed on 27/04/15 on behalf of INRA and Montpellier SupAgro, extended by PCT..