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Apply ligninases to resolve end-of-life issues of thermoset composite plastics

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - BIZENTE (Apply ligninases to resolve end-of-life issues of thermoset composite plastics)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2021-11-01 do 2023-04-30

BIZENTE presents an innovative solution to resolve the end-of-life issues of thermoset composites, based on the development of a new technology focused on the controlled biodegradation of these materials by means of the use of enzymes. BIZENTE technology will contribute to decrease the amount of non-biodegradable polymers currently discharged to the environment or sent to landfill and incineration. The solution will imply opening a biocatalytic process to a new type of feedstock (3 thermoset resins and composites) not previously approached in the plastics value chain.

To reach this purpose, BIZENTE determines directed enzyme evolution strategies to improve ligninases, selected as the most suited biocatalysts able to degrade the three types of thermoset composites addressed in the project based on epoxy, polyester and vinylester resins and reinforced by glass fibre or carbon fibre. These thermoset composites are currently considered to be the largest categories in volume used worldwide by industry and have been ratified by the BIZENTE industrial end-users. Once this new technology is optimised and scaledup to a pilot semi-industrial environment, the products obtained after the enzymatic biodegradation process will be studied in order to return them to the market by means of their valorisation as new feedstocks for different chemicals or building blocks.The BIZENTE project will directly contribute to achieve SIRA’s in KPI1, KPI2 and KPI8 and to demonstrate the solution decreasing the amount of non-biodegradable polymers sent to disposal or even discharged to the environment with novel technologies.
An important objective for the first reporting period was the chemical adaptation of novel resins to improve their degradation process. Resin chemical modification was carried out for each reference resin. For all of them, the Generation 1 (Gen. 1) approach was clearly defined. All other thermoset resins precursors needed to perform the material formulation work were also synthesized.

BIZENTE project studies the potential of ligninolytic enzymes in the degradation of complex thermoset composites. EVO partner started testing their activities in the degradation of soluble model molecules -scaffold compounds- based on the structure of the four selected resins. These, the selected scaffold compounds were used to develop colorimetric assays to detect enzymatic activity.

Throughout the second reporting period, the technical team made significant advancements in protein engineering, materials development, resin modification, and enzyme production. A noteworthy accomplishment was the successful application of enzyme engineering, particularly in the case of UPO (unspecific peroxygenase).

Different generations of resins were developed, namely Generation 1 (Gen1) and Generation 2 (Gen2) resins. In terms of enzymatic treatment of materials, the project conducted a comprehensive comparison of various conditions to identify optimal parameters for achieving the best reaction outcomes. Factors such as temperature, time, physical nature of the substrate, and additives were carefully examined. Furthermore, the project validated the enzymatic protocol for degradation using PET (polyethylene terephthalate) as a positive control.

The project also conducted toxicity and safety tests which demonstrated no adverse effects on several tested materials, ensuring their safety for environmental applications. Furthermore, the project made substantial progress in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) calculations, with initial estimations indicating a potential decrease in CO2 consumption and improved environmental impact for the newly designed materials, highlighting their sustainability benefits.

Partners have defined their Owners’ IPR Mechanism, they have evaluated its exploitation perspectives and have developed their exploitation route map. Also, the consortium applied for Horizon Boost Results Service 2 - Business Plan Development (BPD) and it was granted.

C&D and training activities have been successfully carried out s and many Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) have been already achieved. The online training was launched and the face-to-face session of the training will take place in PLATA on the 15th of September 2023.
BIZENTE provides a new insight in the treatment of composite materials. The inherent properties of these materials such as their durability, lightweight and adaptability makes them a profitable use for many industries that are applying them in their products. Among these
industries are the aerospace and automotive industry so as to the construction, energy and sports among other industries. Most significant impacts of BIZENTE project are to create connections between all the implied agents of the chain promoting business clusters in a new value chain that would comprise the chemical, the biotechnological, plastics and waste management sectors.

BIZENTE most relevant achievements begin with the creation of at least two new cross-sector interconnections between the waste managers & the biotechnological sectors and also between the thermoset composite and the biotechnological sectors. In addition, interactions
between the other areas are reinforced with the project and offers and innovative view to it.The creation of a new value chain “closes the loop” of the composite waste management area by offering an important achievement for society, creating a new working sector, respecting
environmental laws and promoting science and its practical application through BIZENTE project.

These achievements will address societal needs by contributing to a more sustainable society in terms of social, economic and environmental terms. For example, in the case of PLATA, the largest European centre for parking and recycling of aircrafts, around 13.000 tons of composite waste are generated per year. BIZENTE project will be a great opportunity to study the viability (business case) to implement the developed technology as a new line of the recycling activity and to provide a new sustainable end-of-life alternative to all the thermoset composite dismantled parts making a process more economical and environmentally advantageous.

The same technology will be easy to be replicated once tested to the railway sector and in this case, we have VEOLIA and EURIF as stakeholders of BIZENTE project, both enterprises are focused on the recovery and recycling of rolling stock and as PLATA will be able to implement BIZENTE technology in their facilities. It is also expected that waste managers will reduce its costs by providing solutions for the mechanical recycling concerning exclusively the use of composite materials. This is the case of BIZENTE partner: ECRT, the internalisation of BIZENTE technology from the current process to ECRT.

In terms of social impacts, BIZENTE offers a new framework for a sustainable development of the composite industry creating employment and reinforcing the links between different sectors and companies. The possibility of stablishing of a new spin-off in PLATA facilities will promote the development of high qualified skilled jobs related to the bioeconomy and the aeronautical sectors in Teruel, the most depopulated area of Europe. PLATA would be a first uptaker of the technology having already the market and supply chain stablished for its quick growth and this would suppose an impact in direct and indirect jobs.