Sustainable Polymers from Biomass
Sustainable Polymers from Biomass
Mitra S. Ganewatta, Chuanbing Tang and Chang Y. Ryu
The discovery and development of synthetic polymeric materials in the twentieth century is undisputedly recognized as one of the most significant inventions humans have made to improve the quality of life. Durability, light weight, processability, and diverse physiochemical properties are just a few merits why polymeric materials are widely used for the manufacture of simple water bottles to setting up modern space stations. Outstanding processability features along with adequate physical properties have resulted in polymeric materials displacing many other materials, such as wood, metal, and glass to a considerable extent. Packaging, construction, transportation, aerospace, biomedical, energy, and military are few examples of industrial sectors, where polymeric materials prevail. Global production of plastic has risen from 204 million tons in 2002 to about 299 million tons in 2013 . Manufacture of non-natural polymers is largely associated with the utilization of essentially non-renewable fossil feedstocks, either natural gas or petroleum. Approximately, 5-8% of the global oil production is used for plastic production . Accompanying environmental problems include, but are not limited to, generation of solid waste that accumulates in landfills and oceans, production pollution and related environmental problems . A major underlying issue in the use of plastics is the enormous carbon footprint associated with their production as portrayed by burning 1 kg of plastics to generate about 3-6 kg of CO2 (including production and incineration) . In addition, their impervious nature to enzymatic breakdown and "linear" consumption as opposed to natural counterparts results in relentless generation of solid waste from most commercial polymers. Although polymers can be recycled to produce new materials or incinerated to recover its heating source value, such an endeavor is neither clearly understood by the majority of consumers nor technological advances are available in most parts of the world. Depleting oil reserves as well as these detrimental environmental impacts observed in the twentyfirst century have driven government, academia, private sectors, and non-profit organizations to explore sustainable polymers from renewable biomass as a long-term alternative. In addition, the consumers' preference as well as the governmental landscape has shaped in favor of sustainable products for a greener environment. Significant advancements have been made to discover sustainable polymers that are cost-effective to manufacture, as well as compete or out-perform traditional materials in mechanical aspects as well as from environmental standpoints . The valuable contributions to the field by several recent books [5, 6] and reviews [7-11] broadly discuss about sustainable polymeric materials. Our objective is to provide a perspective of the efforts to convert small molecular biomass into sustainable polymers in different continents. This introductory chapter overviews sustainable polymers in general and briefly summarizes the content of each chapter afterward.
1.2 Sustainable Polymers
Given the influence of polymers as an indispensable resource for the modern society, it should be taken as a firm concern for sustainable development. There are many statements to define the term of sustainability. For example, "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" is the working definition provided by the report Our Common Future , published in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development . In most cases, the terms renewable polymers and sustainable polymers are used with overlapping meanings and without any distin