American Chemical Society
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Life Cycle Environmental Impact Considerations in the Design of Soybean Oil-Based Acrylic Monomers

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-08-13, 14:42 authored by Zoriana Demchuk, Na Wu, Ghasideh Pourhashem, Andriy Voronov
Improving the sustainability of polymeric materials through integrating biobased components while maintaining their functionality can be challenging. Using plant oils for the synthesis of biobased acrylic monomers can potentially provide an opportunity for improving the environmental performance of the polymeric materials. In this study, we use life cycle assessment (LCA) methods as a guide, early in the design of the vinyl monomers from soybean oil, to evaluate and improve their environmental performance. We use LCA to pinpoint hotspots along with the process steps and identify greener choices in the process design. The process modifications performed in this study, including reactant/soy-based material loading ratio, alternative catalyst and feedstock, and solvent recycling, resulted in enhanced yield and better environmental performance of the monomers compared to the original synthesis design. Among the modifications tested, adding a solvent recycling step in the synthetic process demonstrated the most significant improvement in the environmental performance in all tested impact categories. Compared to the conventional fossil-based acrylic counterpart (stearyl acrylate), the monomers from soybean oil show better environmental performance in 8 out of 10 of tested categories within the TRACI II method. Given the ability of new monomers in being employed in a wide range of applications, this study demonstrates their capacity for improving the sustainability of the polymeric materials at large scale and therefore the polymer industry.