Material transition

Apart from the production of many products we use every day (such as solvents, pharmaceuticals and detergents), chemistry is also involved in the production of plastics and carbon materials. Unfortunately, the carbon footprint produced by the manufacture of these materials is very high. In order to reduce emissions and meet the goals of the National Climate Agreement, we will need to render the production of these important products fully circular. ARC CBBC is working on the development of new materials produced from renewable sources. This is of crucial importance to the greenification of the chemical industry.

The materials transition

Plastics, paints, coatings, carbon fibres: materials obtained through the application of chemical processes are widespread indeed. They are in our cars, bicycles and houses, in packaging and textiles, and in many other items we use every day. A large part of these materials are, however, produced using chemical building blocks derived from fossil fuels. This is why ARC CBBC aims to develop alternative (and sustainable) production routes, as well as to develop new chemical approaches and materials with innovative properties. This will allow us to set up a circular materials industry considers materials from their initial production to the end of their useful life.

The role of chemistry

Chemists are charged with finding greener alternatives for the materials we currently use and the processes involved in their production at all levels: through product design at molecular level (with the use of bio-based building blocks), though the development of materials with innovative properties to improve their circularity, and through the work we perform on reducing the cost of energy needed for the production of materials (e.g. by developing novel, high-efficiency chemistry concepts and reactors).

The use of new building blocks derived from renewable resources, such as wood, is a promising alternative to building blocks obtained from fossil fuels. However, accessing similar (or higher) properties than the current plastic materials already on the market remains a challenging objective. In regard of this, chemists are exploring new chemical building blocks while simultaneously improving chemical technologies to produce these new materials at a more competitive cost than is currently the case.

ARC CBBC’s contribution to the materials transition

ARC CBBC is engaged in accelerating the materials transition at many levels. An important part of our research concerns the development of catalysts. A catalyst is a chemical substance that facilitates the manufacture of a particular product in a way that uses far less energy than would otherwise be needed. As such, catalysts play a key role in the transition to a sustainable manufacturing industry. ARC CBBC is also working on the development of new catalytic technologies for the conversion of gas wastes (such as methane and carbon dioxide) into carbon materials. Our research also examines the possibility of converting plastic waste into bulk chemicals and new chemical building blocks used in the production of new materials. The use of bio-based building blocks that are converted into coatings using light is also part of our research.

The impact of ARC CBBC

Our extensive research programme focuses, among other things, on reducing the carbon impact of materials during their lifespan. This will benefit the sustainability of the global materials sector. ARC CBBC is conducting research across the entire materials production chain: the use of renewable raw materials such as bio-based building blocks and waste streams for production, the development of sustainable processes and products with improved durability (such as self-healing materials), and the chemical recycling of plastics.

Read more about our contribution to the energy transition and the feedstock transition or learn more about our research projects to gain a better understanding of ARC CBBC’s role in the transition to a sustainable society.