Paint and chemical products from plants
Crude oil is always getting more expensive. And this is doubly annoying for the chemical industry because petroleum remains the main raw material of its products. But it doesn’t have to stay that way, according to chemist Hermann Fischer.
“Biomass, plant material, can replace crude oil entirely,” he explains.
In 1983, Fischer co founded, Auro, a Braunschweig based manufacturer of natural paints. The company pro adidas outlet duces paints from plants and minerals and has sales of around seven million euros ($9.6 million) a year.
No chemical substances from crude oil, natural gas or coal are used for Auro’s products, Fischer says. So, for example, his yellow paint contains pigment extracted from the reseda plant, which grows on the meadows in eastern German Thuringia, and aluminum oxide. Nothing else.
Biomass an inexhaustible resource
“Every year, nature releases more biomass than would be needed to let all the chemical factories in the world do without crude oil, natural gas and coal as their raw material,” Fisher says.
Some manufacturers are already using biomass; for example, for the production of adhesives and detergents. These days, even plastic bags and packaging more are than often being made from biologically degradable polylactic acid.
Laptop or cell phones housings are in part made from composites with plant materials. Hemp, flax or wood fiber are just as good at insulating as crude oil based styrofoam or polyurethane. And even lubricating oil can be from plant based materials, says Fischer. They are even more resistant to th adidas outlet e cold and heat as conventional oils.
Chemicals from biomass have a future
Despite this, chemical products from biomass remain a niche product. There is still a lot of research to be done in order for chemicals to be produced in bulk from natural materials. But the future has begun for phytochemistry. Researchers at universities and in industry are looking for ways to make valuable products from wheat or from the lignin in wood fibers.
Fischer does not think the argument that the use of plants could lead to hunger for people in Africa, Asia or Latin America is valid. He says people only eat a small amount of food plants. With cereal, it is only the grain that is interesting for manufacturers, while it’s the oil with rapeseed. And whoever extracts linseed oil from flax seeds only uses about two percent of the flax plant. The rest fibers, colorings and resins are unused. Flax can provide insulating fibers, oil for linoleum floors and food rich in protein. It’s important to use this versatility, says Fischer.
Hermann Fischer knows that his vision cannot be immediately applied to the existing chemical industry. But he enjoys wrestling with representatives about his concep adidas outlet t and the right way for the fu adidas outlet ture. And he even goes one step further: “Any mass chemical product will have to be justified,” he says.
What’s clear for him is that fewer resources must be used to achieve the same effect in the future. For example, many disposable plastic products could be more durable if they were reinforced with natural fibers.