NNFCC has undertaken several projects for Fiberight Ltd
investigating lactic acid (LA) and polylactic acid (PLA) production. The
company has developed a process to recover value from municipal solid waste
(MSW). The technology produces lignocellulosic fibres, sugar monomers,
recyclables (plastics, metals, glass) and biogas as separate product streams
from MSW. The sugars are obtained from the cellulose pulp recovered following a
washing process applied to the MSW-derived heterogenous biomass. Fiberight is
currently investigating whether LA, and subsequently PLA, can be produced from
the MSW-derived sugars Fiberight is able to produce.
Market Analysis and Technology Landscape for LA and PLA
The first project focused on the advancement of the
technology commercialised to produce LA and PLA. The work included the
identification of key LA and PLA acid product developers and the description of
the technology used for each LA and PLA production process employed in
industry. The microorganisms used as well as the differences between
technologies were identified:
- bioprocess engineering,
- LA condensation and polymerisation,
- PLA purification and
- process energy requirements.
The work provided Fiberight with a clear and concise
snapshot of the technology developed at commercial scale for the production of
LA and PLA. A short analysis of the energy requirements in industry for
specific production PLA production processes was carried out to finalise the
study to identify the greatest difference in the process costs, informing
Fiberight’s future LA producing process.
The results of the first piece of work on the technological
landscape of LA and PLA production were used for the submission of an Innovate
UK grant, allowing Fiberight to carry-out more R&D, strengthening its
innovation as part of its value chain.
This first project led to an additional piece of work on LA
and PLA: a foresight piece of work allowing Fiberight to gain information to
facilitate future process developments. The work highlighted the main product
developers for each application of PLA together with the technical
specifications necessary to produce a better-performing PLA biobased plastic.
Interviews with PLA product developers were carried-out to provide insight to Fiberight on the limitations of PLA, together with the R&D strategies employed
to resolve them. The work led to the identification of target markets for PLA products
with the associated key properties required to facilitate the future
commercialisation of their own product.
Thermoset Resin Market Research Study
Fiberight Ltd approached NNFCC for an insight on the current
market landscape for thermoset resins, a potential market for a new bio-based
Fiberight has developed a process to recover value from
municipal solid waste (MSW). The technology produces lignocellulosic fibres,
sugar monomers, recyclables (plastics, metals, glass) and biogas as separate
product streams from MSW. The sugars are obtained from the cellulose pulp
recovered following a washing process applied to the MSW-derived heterogenous
biomass. Fiberight is currently researching whether the sugars it produces could constitute the building blocks of a novel type of bio-based epoxy.
This project aimed to identify wider market opportunities
for the use of waste derived sugars in the production of thermoset resins. A
literature search was carried-out to identify bio-based building blocks,
highlighting the existing or future potential for sugar use in polyester,
epoxy, vinyl ester or polyurethane resins. For developmental resins (>TRL5)
using sugar precursors, the approach taken and the current state of development
was described. Furthermore, resins type for which sugars were used in
commercial applications were highlighted.
As a result of the work, easily accessible
sugars building blocks used to produce different types of thermoset resins were
identified. Furthermore, market research on each type of thermoset resin was
collected to determine areas of growth for specific applications (market volume
and price, key producer). Together, both sets of data were used to evaluate the
market opportunities for Fiberight and identify
‘first-move’ opportunities. This will allow Fiberight to plan for process
optimisation strategies to produce the relevant thermoset resin building blocks
from sugars and start thinking about subsequent chemical reactions needed to
produce said building blocks used in the above-mentioned resins.
''The work carried out for
Fiberight by NNFCC has allowed us to quickly assess the technology and market
landscape for lactic acid and thermoset resin production. Both sets of work
have provided very useful information which has been used to obtain further UK
and EU funding for the value streams that were assessed.'' - Fiberight.