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PEF renewable substitute of PET

AVA BIOCHEM- A group of researchers at the University of Hohenheim, have found out that apart from salad leaves or coffee, chicory can also be used as the chemical basis for making plastic bottles and stockings. In autumn, the milky sap of the plant contains an average of 15 to 20 percent inulin, a fructose-based polysaccharide in which the plant stores the energy that it needs to grow and bloom the following summer. This sap can be used to produce hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), a yellow-white powder that is one of 12 platform chemicals used for producing plastics.

AVA Biochem developed a process to industry level to produce HMF out of fructose and several other feedstocks. Chicory roots turned out to be the perfect raw material as they accumulate as waste in agricultural production and so do not compete with food production.

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is produced from crude oil and consists of up to 85 percent terephthalate. The goal is to replace the “T” in PET with “F”, i.e. plant-based furandicarboxylic acid and use this material to produce bottles, stockings, sportswear, films and even vascular grafts. The goal is to use biobased PEF in all areas where PET is presently used, and also where PET is not adapted (higher added value allowing to absorb the high PEF cost at the beginning); PEF has a particular potential for high temperature and high barrier applications for which PET is not adapted.

There is a very good chance, that PEF will replace food packages. It has 2 major advantages compared to PET: the higher gas barrier prevents oxygen intrusion to the food much better than PET, thus increasing the shelf life of food drastically. The higher mechanical stability allows the use of thinner foils and packages, thus reducing overall material and logistic costs. It has to be analysed, how big the advantages are, how long shelf life is extended, and how different kinds of food and different environmental conditions (sun, temperature, humidity) affect the behaviour of PEF based food packages.

For PEF we have the additional opportunity of the high oxygen barrier, which gives the possibility to produce monomaterial packaging for oxygen sensitive products (e.g. meat products) resulting in opportunity for end use. Biggest barrier is the availability of this material for industrial use.