Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most-produced chemicals worldwide, with more than 1 150 000 tonnes manufactured every year in the EU alone. It is mainly used as a monomer for the polycarbonate industry and for the epoxy resins industry. Since 2017, BPA has been classified as a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC). Several studies have linked exposure to BPA, even at low doses, with a range of health risks, such as reproductive dysfunction and altered hormone systems, and environmental impacts.
The human biomonitoring studies have found that the vast majority of the European population is chronically exposed to low doses of BPA. Although BPA is not persistent in the environment, it is found in several environmental compartments, thus reflecting numerous sources of continuous emissions.Additionally, its fossil-based composition raises concerns about its sustainability, and bio-based alternatives must be found.
The epoxy resin sector processes around 345 000 tonnes of BPA a year. Epoxy resins are applied in a wide range of industries due to their toughness, strong adhesion, chemical resistance and other relevant properties. However, alternative lignin-based epoxy resins offer similar thermo-mechanical properties and would allow the use of BPA to be reduced.
The LIFE VIABLE project aims to develop lignin-based epoxy resins on a pre-industrial scale to demonstrate their technical and commercial viability as an alternative to BPA in epoxy resins for high-performance applications. The resins will be tested in the automotive sector, with the overall aim of showing that the environmental and health impacts of BPA can be reduced by lowering its content in the formulation of epoxy resins.
Specifically, the project aims to:
- Integrate glycidylated lignin oil (GLO) in epoxy-based composite materials, achieving a reduction in the use of BPA of 20 to 50%;
- Manufacture a structural and an aesthetic car components to demonstrate that the lignin-based epoxy resin has similar technical characteristics to commercial materials;
- Adapt industrial processes of the whole value chain for the large-scale production of the composite material;
- Widely disseminate the project results to end-users, policy-makers and the chemical and biomass industry; and
- Prepare a commercialisation strategy for the project solution, along with its replication for at least two other automotive components (its transfer to four sectors will be studied).
The LIFE VIABLE project contributes to the toxic-free environment objective of the EU’s New Green Deal and to the Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work. By reducing CO2 emissions it is also in line with the EU action plan for the circular economy and the bioeconomy strategy.
- Production of 220 kg of organosolv lignin, 170 kg of GLO, 300 kg of epoxy resin formulated with GLO and two times 100 m2 of carbon fibre;
- 74 kg reduction of fossil-based resources and a 226 kg CO2-equivalent reduction of the carbon footprint; and
- Creation of 25 jobs in 2026.