Project rationale

Project rationale

The BARBARA project falls within the scope of the call for proposals under the 2016 work programme of the H2020-BBI-JTI-2016 bio-industrial public-private partnership, and more particularly under its BBI-2016-R07 section on biopolymers with advanced functionalities for high performance applications.

As expressed in that call, biopolymers are expected to experience high growth in the next years and are one of the main sectors for bio-based products. To date, efforts and research have focused on the need to replace conventional materials based on fossil resources with other more sustainable and bio-based ones, especially those of high consumption such as those involved in packaging.

Nevertheless, the capabilities offered by biopolymers to develop improved functionalities and even get properties out of the scope of fossil-based polymers provides new opportunities going beyond the current state of play, in particular for high added value market niches, such as industrial ones. It is this challenge that project BARBARA will rise to over the next 36 months, thanks to the work to be carried out by its 11 international partners.

Additionally, BARBARA´s contribution will go beyond the theoretical field, since it will include, as required in the call, the manufacturing of two real prototypes to be tested in two different sectors. Thus, it will provide a solution for an urgent challenge faced by global industry, which is overcoming the technical barriers met in order to find bio-based and biodegradable materials for the 100-150 degrees centigrade range, which so far have proved a hurdle for the widespread use of these materials. This is also the reason why there is a lack of suitable processes for these materials, in particular those regarding the manufacturing of additives, 3 D printing and the existence of standardised procedures at a large scale. In fact, at present, there is only one biopolymer available for this technology on the market.

The construction and automotive sectors are key to the European industry, as well as aerospace, electronics and household appliances. They need biopolymers in order to manufacture bio-plastics with outstanding structural functionalities while being sustainable. BARBARA will improve their thermal, mechanical and aesthetic properties. The proposal found in this project, with bio-based advanced materials coming from farming waste and by-products with a view to generating new materials and products with advanced functionalities, provides a great business opportunity for many areas of the European economy, ranging from farmers upstream to end-users in key industrial sectors.

The European Union generates 110 million tonnes of animal and vegetal waste per year, 30% of it coming from the agricultural, hunting and forestry sectors. Processing this huge amount of waste and by-products from the agro-food industry poses a twofold economic and environmental problem. The need to combine waste reduction, particularly bio-based waste, with the search for innovative bio-additives and bio-resins to improve properties and behaviour of materials aiming to become an alternative to composites and traditional polymers, has opened a promising field of research where this project finds its roots.

Within the framework of the BARBARA project, research teams from different partners will extract bio-additives from carrot, pomegranate and almond residues, as well as bio-polymers from corn by-products. These will be incorporated in engineering bio-plastic matrices to be combined with agents for thermal and mechanical resistance, alongside agents for colouring and agents with antimicrobial functionalities. Then they will be incorporated into bio-resins obtained from the same natural source to be used to generate nano-biocomposite filaments for 3 D printing.

Polysaccharides will be extracted from corn whereas bio-functional molecules (natural dyes, essential oils, antimicrobial molecules and reinforcement agents) will be obtained from pomegranate, carrot and almond, in the lab. Those molecules of interest being targeted are additives with antimicrobial properties (polyphenols, flavonoids and tannins), natural colourants (beta-carotenes and anthocyanins), polysaccharides and, to a lesser extent, amino acids and organic acids.