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  • Writer's pictureNed Patton

Bio-Resin – Yes it’s now a Thing!!

This week I decided to dig a little deeper into the bio-resin business to see what was really going on and I like what I found.  Not only are there research projects going on in Europe and the U.S., there are several companies that have bio-based epoxy resins formulated and on the market. 


And yes, plant derived oil is one of the major components of most if not all bio-resins.  Not necessarily corn oil, but I thought that the lead pic in this post needed to look like plants.

There is a company that I have written about in the past – Entropy Resins – that has a mostly plant-based resin, and along with that have refined their process for making resin to be carbon neutral.  At least that is what the USDA says.  All of Entropy’s resins are USDA certified bio-based products.  These folks have been at this epoxy business for some time.  Entropy Resins is part of the product line of the Gougeon Brothers and their WEST System room temperature epoxies that every boat owner has had to use at some point in their boat owning life. 

And Entropy is not the only large bio-based epoxy resin manufacturer in the market.  There are three large companies that occupy 80% of the market according to 24ChemicalResearch (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/global-bio-based-epoxy-market-research-report-2022/) with a French company – Sicomin – with about 50% of the market, then Gougeon Brothers, and then Wessex Resins which is affiliated with the Gougeon Brothers and makes WEST System epoxies in the UK.  And the market is growing very fast.  According to all of the market reports I could find, the bio-based epoxy market in 2022 was on the order of $55M with an expected compound annual growth rate of 12%.  That’s a healthy market and it is actually outpacing the petroleum based epoxy market in terms of annual growth.  That means that users and suppliers are paying attention to sustainability in the plant-based resin market. 

Sicomin is an interesting case study in this market.  They are a French company that has been in business since 1946, right after WWII.  In 1983 their current President was working within Sicomin and had a passion for sailing.  So, he started a composite materials business within Sicomin and the Sicomin epoxy business was formed.  They have been the largest European epoxy manufacturer for a number of years, and have recently formulated a completely plant-based epoxy that they call GreenPoxy.  They have developed chemistries that can extract glycerol directly from food and agricultural waste, forest products (non-food waste), and industrial waste.  Instead of propene as a feedstock as is used for petroleum based epoxies, they use glycerol with a different conversion chemistry and end up with the same epichlorohydrin that is the backbone of modern epoxies. 

And there are new plant-based resins being developed all the time.  The pic below is from a group in Europe (Belgium and The Netherlands) that are using a mix of kraft lignin and plant oils to make a fully plant-derived epoxy.  I have of course talked about the use of lignin as a precursor for epoxies as well as plant-based aromatic oils, and it appears that this group has done a rathe thorough job of working through the chemistry to understand the range of properties that they can achieve. 


These researchers varied the amount of lignin in their bio-epoxy resins and measured several parameters of importance to epoxies.  They found that as the percentage of lignin increases, so does the stiffness (Young’s Modulus) of the resin as well as the glass transition temperature (where the epoxy softens up) as well as the temperature at which the epoxy begins to degrade.  And, since the two components to their resin system are readily available in large quantities this does bode well to a scale up of this chemistry to industrial scale on par with petroleum based epoxies.  Both of these components can be extracted from agricultural waste (plant oils) and forest products waste (lignin) so this resin, once scaled up, will be less expensive than current petroleum based epoxies. 

And the reason that plant-based precursors make for very good epoxy resin precursors is because Mother Nature prefers the aromatic ring structure over simpler hydrocarbons.  This is for good reason.  The aromatic or benzene ring makes for a very solid structure for these compounds.  I have talked about this before, but this aromatic structure is what makes all composite resins and all carbon and organic fibers as strong, stiff, and light weight as they are. 

And there are more plant-based epoxies either on the market or coming to the market soon.  There is even a small farm-based epoxy producer in Canada (Manitoba) that uses entirely plant based sources for their epoxy precursors.  Their market is fairly small, since they have mostly targeted woodworkers and artists (casting and coating resins).  Since it is plant-based, and also since it has zero VOCs, it is safe to handle and non-toxic.  This is of course in contrast to bisphenol-A based epoxies which are rather toxic and commonly have at least some VOCs that need to be vented during cure. 

Two more bio-based resin developments need to be mentioned here.  One group in China (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1381514823001906) has developed a plant-based alternative to the common petroleum based epoxy precursor DGEBA.  They have formulated an epoxy resin from resveratrol and phloroglucinol – both organic alcohols which is where all of this chemistry starts – that has even improved properties over standard bisphenol-A based epoxies, along with it being non-toxic and plant based. 

And another group in France (https://ecoxy.eu/news/bio-based-epoxy-resins/) that calls themselves Specific Polymers that was created as an R&D outfit to assist in the scale up producer of the sustainable building blocks of bio-based epoxy resins.  They have a couple of sustainable aromatic precursors that make an epoxy and that can be derived from lignin and also from algae.  They also have a bio-based epoxidized vegetable oil product that they are working to get scaled up.  These are all very promising polymers and they are completely plant-based. 

Like I said at the start of this post, this is a good news story, and the deeper I dug into it the better it got. 

That’s about it for this week.  I hope everyone that reads these posts enjoys them as much as I enjoy writing them.  As usual I will post this first on my website – www.nedpatton.com – as well as on LinkedIn.  And if anyone wants to provide comments to this, I welcome them with open arms.  Comments, criticisms, etc. are all quite welcome.  I really do want to engage in a conversation with all of you about composites because we can learn so much from each other as long as we share our own perspectives. 

I also wanted to remind everyone that I will be speaking at the SAMPE conference in Long Beach in May.  I’m going to be talking about the subject that I have a passion for – composites sustainability.  Maybe I can help the industry a bit again, maybe even rattle a few cages like what happened at the Carbon Fiber Conference in Salt Lake.  One can only hope.  Anyway, for anyone that is interested in materials and process engineering, SAMPE will be a great conference.  And they will have a really great exhibit as well. 

And this week I am also going to be in a “Fireside Chat” with Dale Dougherty, President of Make:.  I met Dale last year at the Maker Faire here in Northern California (the old naval base in Napa), and Dale invited me to sit on a Zoom call with him for about an hour.  Should be fun.  It will apparently be streaming on YouTube soon, so I will let everyone know about it when it gets there. 

And, finally, I still need to plug my book, so here’s the plug.  The book pretty much covers the watershed in composites, starting with a brief history of composites, then introducing the Periodic Table and why Carbon is such an important and interesting element.  The book was published and made available last August, and is available both on Amazon and from McFarland Books – my publisher.  However, the best place to get one is to go to my website and buy one.  I will send you a signed copy for the same price you would get charged on Amazon, except that I charge $8 shipping.  Anyway, here’s the link to get your signed copy:  https://www.nedpatton.com/product-page/the-string-and-glue-of-our-world-signed-copy.  And as usual, here’s a picture of the book, for those of you just tuning in. 



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